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2020 art biennials come together under new leaders

Aug 02,2019
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From left, Defne Ayas and Natasha Ginwala, will be artistic directors of the 2020 Gwangju Biennale; Yung Ma, will be the artistic director for the 2020 Seoul Mediacity Biennale; and Jacob Fabricius will direct the 2020 Busan Biennale. [GWANGJU BIENNALE FOUNDATION, SEMA AND BUSAN BIENNALE ORGANIZING COMMITTEE]
The top three art biennials of Korea are preparing in earnest for their next editions, all of which are scheduled to kick off in September 2020. The organizers of the Busan Biennale and the Seoul Mediacity Biennale each named new art directors earlier this week. The Gwangju Biennale Foundation, which had already designated its two artistic directors in March, unveiled the next edition’s working theme, “Intelligence,” last month.

The Seoul Museum of Art (SeMA) said on Monday that it appointed Yung Ma, the curator of the contemporary art and prospective creation department at the Centre Pompidou in Paris, as the artistic director for the Seoul Mediacity Biennale’s 11th edition. It will be the 20th year of the biennial art festival hosted by the Seoul city government and organized by SeMA, which has been focusing on the relations between contemporary art, new media and urban sociology.

Ma, 40, the first-ever foreign director for the Seoul biennial, recently curated the solo show of Chinese artist Cao Fei at the Centre Pompidou. He previously served as the associate curator of Moving Image at M+ in Hong Kong between 2011 and 2016.

“We intend to open up a new chapter of the Mediacity Biennale with a new director chosen without limits on age or nationality,” SeMA director Beck Jee-sook said on Monday. Beck, who served as the artistic director of the biennale’s 9th edition, became the museum’s director this March.

Ma was quoted by the museum as saying, “I look forward to working closely with Director Beck and the SeMA team to realize the next edition, where I intend to explore aspects of the current media landscape in relation to our contemporary condition with a global perspective.”

On the same day, the Busan Biennale organizing committee announced its 12th edition will be led by Jacob Fabricius, 48, the artistic director of the contemporary art center Kunsthal Aarhus in Denmark. The 2020 edition of the Busan Biennale will focus on “themes of youthfulness, openness and dynamism,” the organizers said.

Among the major exhibitions Fabricius has curated are the Danish artist collective Superflex’s 2018 show “We Are All In The Same Boat” in Miami and the 6th Biennale of Moving Images in the Belgian city of Mechelen in 2013.

Meanwhile, the two newly-appointed artistic directors for the Gwangju Biennale’s 13th edition in 2020, Defne Ayas and Natasha Ginwala, had their first round of research in Gwangju and Seoul and then met with reporters in Seoul on July 11.

At the meeting, the directors said they are exploring “the alternative history of intelligence” ranging from ancient indigenous cosmologies based on shamanism, animism and old religions to current issues surrounding artificial intelligence.

The definition of intelligence and sociopolitical dynamics behind collective production of intelligence will be also researched, the directors said.

Ayas, 42, curator at large at the V-A-C Foundation in Moscow and Ginwala, 33, associate curator at Gropius Bau in Berlin, are known for their interdisciplinary approaches to curating art exhibitions.

BY MOON SO-YOUNG [symoon@joongang.co.kr]