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Gallery Exhibitions

Museum Exhibitions & Projects

TRIENNIAL

Echigo-Tsumari Art Tr...
Tokamachi City, Japan

July 26 – September 13, 2015

Biennial

Gwangju Biennale

September 5 – November 9, 2014

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Artist Bio

Lee Bul

PRESS

Financial Times

January 11, 2017

News

Video: Lee Bul’s Monumental Sydney Biennale Dreamscape Artinfo

April 14 2016

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'Embassy of The Real': a Biennale of Sydney satellite show on Cockatoo Island Wallpaper* Magazine

March 24 2016

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Artist Talk: Lee Bul 20th Biennale of Sydney

March 18, 2016, 1PM
Turbine Hall, Cockatoo Island, New South Wales, Australia

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Sydney Biennale review – contemporary art meets sci-fi in wide-reaching show The Guardian

March 18 2016

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Sydney Biennale Announces Artist List Artforum

October 28 2015

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Lee Bul’s Fog-Covered Installation at Palais de Tokyo ARTINFO

October 21 2015

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The Korea Herald

October 1, 2014

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The Korea Herald

September 11, 2014

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The Brooklyn Rail

July 15, 2014

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Time Out New York

June 10, 2014

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The Creator's Project

May 22, 2014

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Time Out New York

May 22, 2014

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Artinfo

May 15, 2014

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Cool Hunting

May 5, 2014

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Art in America

May 2014

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Art Review

October 2013

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Whitewall

March 20, 2013

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Artinfo

March 14, 2013

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Time Out Hong Kong

March 13, 2013

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The Wall Street Journal

March 13, 2013

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Art Asia Pacific Where I Work: Lee Bul

March/April 2013

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Lehmann Maupin's Inaugural Hong Kong Exhibition Features New Work by Leading Korean Artist Lee Bul 14 March - 11 May 2013

January 28 2013

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The Creator's Project

September 20, 2012

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Real Tokyo

April 5, 2012

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The Japan Times

April 5, 2012

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Art Asia Pacific

February 29, 2012

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The Korea Herald

February 5, 2012

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Artforum

January 2012

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Sculpture

April 30, 2011

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W Magazine

October 31, 2010

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Art + Auction

October 31, 2010

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Guardian

July 21, 2010

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Time Out New York

June 3, 2010

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Artnet

May 15, 2010

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The Japan Times

April 9, 2010

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The Korea Times

February 5, 2010

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Art In America

August 31, 2008

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Time Out New York

June 14, 2008

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The New Yorker

June 9, 2008

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Art + Auction

June 1, 2008

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The New York Times

May 30, 2008

The Japan Times


The Japan Times
April 5, 2012

Lee Bul: Inspired By The Past Imperfect
By Emily Wakeling

She may be Asia's leading female artist, but Lee Bul has grown very tired of that title.

Starting out in the late 1980s, Korean artist Lee has witnessed some big changes within the global art scene. She was one of the first women artists from Asia to exhibit in major international art museums during the Asian art boom of the '90s — a time when many Asian art biennales were being launched, and exhibitions focusing on Asian artists were still quite rare in Western art museums.

"In the 1990s, the label 'Asian Woman Artist' was a term that caused me a lot of grief, actually," says Lee at an interview during her recent visit to Tokyo for an artist talk.

"It was a time when Asian artists and artists from the so-called third world were perceived in a shallow way. 'Asian artist' was just a term of convenience," she continued. "The idea of Asian art was a concept that was toyed with, but it didn't mean much. It was not fully conscious. The title 'Asian woman artist' also made people make an automatic connection with the label 'feminist.' "

Despite her upbringing in a very political family, Lee has never personally identified with South Korea's late-coming feminist movement. "I don't believe in any 'isms' " she says. But she is an artist who constantly questions political ideals. Specifically, she questions what she sees as civilization's chronic belief in utopianism.

Even if Lee does not consider herself a feminist artist, there has been plenty of feminist critiques of her art. Looking at the body of work on display for "From Me, Belongs to You Only," her major solo exhibition at Tokyo's Mori Art Museum, a lot appears to comment on the ideals surrounding women's bodies and the desire for bodily improvement.

At the exhibition's halfway point, visitors are confronted with a dark room populated with stark white, humanoid female figures hanging from the ceiling. The "Cyborg" and "Anagram" series (late 1990s) are a culmination of the artist's interest in the human desire for reinvention and improvement, an obsession pursued most conspicuously by Western and Asian women through cosmetic surgery. With a combination of mechanical joints and feminine curves, these figures are an artistic hypothetical exploration of where science may lead us in the future.

Instead of the artist suggesting a viable option for human advancement, these statues lack limbs and heads. Like the idealized bodies of "Nike of Samothrace" the "Venus de Milo" and other ancient Greek statues, these works show human evolution alongside suggestions of antiquity. The sculptures are also reminiscent of anime-style cyborgs, an influence Lee credits to her early love of Japanese animation.

"Korea imports a lot of Japanese culture, like cartoons and karaoke. When I was a child, I just assumed the animations were Korean. Then, as an adult, I wanted to find out more about their origins," she says. "I've always been interested in Japanese pop culture."

This includes an interest in karaoke, another pastime with Japanese origins that became popular in Korea. In 1999-2001, Lee created karaoke pods for "Live Forever," an installation in which visitors could participate in their own individual and private karaoke sessions.

The pods are unique in design — white and sleek like sports cars or spaceships, or maybe even coffins — and in this exhibition, they serve as a link between Lee's figurative works to the architecturally inspired pieces of her newer series.

Architecture began to feature in Lee's sculptures in 2005. Second to the alteration and manipulation of our bodies, architecture can be seen to represent our most-immediate social and cultural constructs. Lee moved on to a series of ambitious pieces inspired by Modernist architects Bruno Taut and Vladimir Tatlin.

Taut's ambitious Alpine Architecture (1917), a proposal to construct glass houses the size of mountains in the Alps, was an example of Modernism's most idealistic aims in which the transparent glass represented his vision of a new openness in international relations and a strategy for peace. Lee's piece, "After Bruno Taut (Beware the sweetness of things)" (2007) is a large work constructed from strings of beads, wires and crystals to evoke the kind of brilliance Taut must have been picturing when he imagined his monumental glass houses.

The title of another work "Mon grand recit: Weep into stones . . ." (2005) refers to French philosopher Jean-Francois Lyotard's Postmodern theory that rejected the "grand recit" (grand narrative) or "isms" of Modernism. Lee claims the grand narrative by adding the French word for "my" ("mon") and asserts the relevance of personal viewpoints over collective ideals. In this work, Lee has abstracted famous architectural sketches, collapsed the buildings and sent elevated highways to dead ends. She reconstructs the grand narrative, as it was represented in Modernist architecture, and manipulates it as she wants.

One room at the Mori Art Museum contains a reconstruction of Lee's studio, which offers an insight into her artistic process. There are a vast number of small maquettes, an indication of Lee's long period of experimentation before she finally creates a sculpture.

More than 50 maquettes were made before "The Secret Sharer" (2012), the final work in the exhibition, was completed. Modelled on the artist's dog, this larger-than-life dog-shaped sculpture sits atop a table, its mouth open wide as it vomits. Constructed from crystals and mirrors, the effect of this rather powerful, potentially off-putting image, is countered by the beauty of the materials. Not only does "The Secret Sharer" aim to tell the audience something by opening its mouth, but the mirrors also allow the viewers to share glimpses of themselves as well as the sculpture's surroundings.

"The Secret Sharer" has been described as a self-reflective piece about the artist's career, but this not to say that Lee is finished with her "Mon grand recit" series.

"It's such a huge theme. I can't picture an ending," she says. "But eventually I will finish I guess. I can't do it forever."

As humans continue to face the future while dealing with history's mistakes, Lee Bul's art will continue to find inspiration and relevance.

"Lee Bul: From Me, Belongs to You Only" at the Mori Art Museum runs till May 27; open daily 10 a.m.-10 p.m. (Tue. till 5 p.m.). ¥1,500. www.mori.art.museum/english/contents/leebul/index.html