Utopia Saved by Lee Bul at Manege / November 2020

By September 18, 2020 Oktober 27th, 2020 No Comments

Willing To Be Vulnerable, 2015–2016. Heavy-duty fabric, metalized film, transparent film, polyurethane ink, fog machine, LED lighting, electronic wiring, dimensions variable. Installation view of the 20th Biennale of Sydney, 2016. Photo: Algirdas Bakas. Courtesy: Studio Lee Bul

Utopia Saved by Lee Bul at Manege / November 2020




DATES: 13 NOVEMBER 2020 – 31 JANUARY 2021

Curator – Sunjung Kim
Co-curator – SooJin Lee

Untitled (Buried memory tableau), 2008. Wood, acrylic mirror, polyurethane, glass beads and acrylic paint, 119.4 x 115.6 x 111.8 cm. Photo: Jeon Byungcheol. Courtesy: Studio Lee Bul

Untitled paper #4, 2009. Acrylic paint, India ink and pigmented ink on paper, 80 x 60 cm. Private collection, Paris. Courtesy: Studio Lee Bul and Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac, London, Paris and Salzburg

ORGANIZED BY the Manege Central Exhibition Hall in cooperation with Studio Lee Bul and the Gwangju Biennale Foundation.

Manege is proud to announce the forthcoming exhibition Utopia Saved – the first ever major solo exhibition featuring legendary Korean artist Lee Bul to take place in Russia. Lee Bul’s work provides a true insight into contemporary art in South Korea and Asia as a whole. Her work has received widespread acclaim around the world, with solo exhibitions taking place at leading museums and contemporary art centres in New York, Philadelphia, Sidney, Toronto, Marseille, Bern, Tokyo, Seoul, London and Berlin. She has also twice taken part in the Venice Biennale, in 1999 and 2019.

Via Negativa II, 2014. Polycarbonate sheet, aluminum frame, acrylic and polycarbonate mirrors, steel, stainless-steel, mirror, two-way mirror, LED lighting, silkscreen ink, approximately 275 x 500 x 700 cm. Photo: Elisabeth Bernstein. Courtesy: Lehmann Maupin, New York, Hong Kong and Seoul

Lee Bul’s longstanding fascination with utopia entered a new phase in the first decade of the 21st century, when she started creating architectural sculptures and drawings inspired by Constructivism and Russian avant-garde art and architecture. The artist uses icons and tropes from utopian modernism, transforming, allegorising, and juxtaposing them in her own creative works. She engages with utopian modernism with empathy and originality, with critique and imagination. Utopia Saved is Lee Bul’s first solo exhibition to be held in Russia, and for the first time presents her post-2005 works alongside the Russian art that inspired them.

Partial view of Civitas Solis II, 2014.  Polycarbonate sheet, acrylic mirror, LED lights, electrical wiring, dimensions variable View of the exhibition, “Lee Bul: Crash,” Gropius Bau, Berlin, 2018–19 Photo: Mathias Völzke. Courtesy: Gropius Bau, Berlin

The exhibition focuses on the artist’s environmental installations, architectural sculptures, and drawings produced since 2005, from a maquette for Mon grand récit to the Civitas Solis and the Willing To Be Vulnerable series, among others, in addition to preparatory studies that reveal the complexity of her creative process. Some of the drawings and maquettes included in this exhibition have never been shown before. These will for the first time be exhibited together with works by Russian avant-garde artists that have intrigued her imagination for years.» Sunjung Kim and SooJin Lee, exhibition curators

Manege will present a rich programme of events to run alongside the exhibition. This will aim to draw additional interest from visitors, and to cast more light on contemporary art and culture in South Korea, as well as on their ties with Russian culture and the avant-garde.

Partial view of Civitas Solis II, 2014. Polycarbonate sheet, acrylic mirror, LED lights, electrical wiring, dimensions variable. View of the exhibition, “Cosmological Arrows – Journeys Through Inner and Outer Space,” Bonniers Konsthall, Stockholm, 2019. Photo: Jean-Baptiste Béranger. Courtesy: Bonniers Konsthall, Stockholm

A bilingual catalogue will be prepared in time for the opening day of the exhibition, which will include curatorial and academic articles, and also essays by Russian and foreign specialists. Manege’s publication programme partner is Free Artists – an Autonomous non profit organisation for the development of art and culture.

The exhibition and accompanying event programme aim to give a voice to one of the most important artists of our time and to immerse visitors into an absorbing research study into new cultural codes and ways of thinking visually. In addition, their mission is to demonstrate the importance of the way modern culture is perceived from the viewpoint of being involved in global artistic and sociocultural processes.

The exhibition forms a key part of the Year of Cultural Exchange between Russia and South Korea (2020), which is taking place to mark the 30-year anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties between the two countries.

Civitas Solis II, 2014. View of the exhibition, “MMCA Hyundai Motor Series 2014: Lee Bul,” National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Korea, 2014–2015. Polycarbonate sheet, acrylic mirror, LED lights, electrical wiring, 330 x 3325 x 1850 cm as installed. Commissioned by National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Korea. Sponsored by Hyundai Motor Company. © Lee Bul. Photo: Jeon Byung-cheol. Courtesy: National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Korea

The exhibition will hold its opening at the 9th Saint Petersburg International Cultural Forum, and will be open to Cultural Forum Public Flow participants from November 11-14. Register on the forum’s official website to download free e-tickets for the exhibition. The exhibition will open to the general public on November 16.

On 11 November a symposium will take place as part of the cultural forum. This will examine the work of Lee Bul, as well as the influence that the Russian avant-garde has had on art in East Asia. There will also be a presentation of the exhibition catalogue and a press preview. A number of Russian and foreign specialists have been invited to take part in the symposium, including Mami Kataoka, director of Mori Art Museum in Tokyo; Stephanie Rosenthal, director of the Gropius-Bau exhibition centre in Berlin; Pi Li, senior curator at the M+ museum of visual culture in Hong Kong; Wu Hung, art historian and professor at the University of Chicago, and Lee Bul and exhibition curators Sunjung Kim and SooJin Lee.

The symposium will be moderated by curator Sunjung Kim and Semyon Mikhailovsky, rector of the St Petersburg Repin Academy of Arts, Sculpture and Architecture, and head of the Fine Arts section at the Cultural Forum.

Antonio Campanella. Courtesy: Studio Lee Bul and Frame Magazine

Lee Bul (b. 1964) is an artist based in Seoul, South Korea. Trained as a sculptor during the period of social and political upheavals of the 1980s, she started off her artistic career with performative pieces that incorporated wearable soft sculptures. In the 1990s she gained international recognition with a series of provocative works, including her scandalous installation of fresh fish left to decay and her Cyborg sculptures, hybrids of machine and organic forms. In the 2000s she became interested in using her art to explore the history of modernity. Lee began creating large-scale installations and architectural sculptures – imaginative inquiries into history fused with her personal memory and experience.

In more recent projects and exhibitions, Lee Bul has produced stunning, immersive installations, such as Civitas Solis II and Aubade III for South Korea’s National Museum of Contemporary Art in 2014 and Palais de Tokyo in 2015, and Willing To Be Vulnerable for the 20th Biennale of Sydney in 2016. Her most recent survey show encompassed the entire 30 years of her career; Lee Bul: Crashing, curated by Stephanie Rosenthal, was held at London’s Hayward Gallery and Martin-Gropius-Bau in Berlin from May 2018 through January 2019.

Sunjung Kim © Photo by Jung My

SUNJUNG KIM, curator

Sunjung Kim is a curator and currently the president of the Gwangju Biennale Foundation. Throughout her career, Kim
has made an enormous contribution to the development of contemporary art in South Korea.

She has also done a great deal to establish enduring ties between cultural figures in South Korea and the global art
scene. In addition to her role as curator, Sunjung Kim is artistic director of the Real DMZ Project, a contemporary art project based on research conducted on the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) in South Korea and its border area, which she founded in 2011.

Previously, she was chief curator and deputy director (1993-2004) and the director (2016-2017) of the Art Sonje Center
in Seoul, where she curated numerous exhibitions, including solo exhibitions of Martin Creed (2009), Haegue Yang (2010), Abraham Cruzvillegas (2015), and Francis Alÿs (2018). She was also the commissioner of the Korean Pavilion for the 51st Venice Biennale (2005), the artistic director of Platform Seoul (2006-2010), a professor at the Korea National University of Arts (2006-2012), the artistic director of Media City Seoul (2010), a co-artistic director of the 9th Gwangju Biennale (2012), the artistic director of the ACC Archive & Research at Asia Culture Center (2014-2015), and the chief curator of the 12th Gwangju Biennale Imagined Borders (2018).

SooJin Lee

SOOJIN LEE, co-curator

SooJin Lee is an art historian and writer, teaching as an Assistant Professor at Hongik University in South Korea. Previously, she taught and worked at the University of Chicago, the University of Illinois, the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and the Art Sonje Center.

Her recent articles include “(Un)see and Be (Un)seen: Yoko Ono Between Avant-Garde and Mass Culture” (2018), “Emoji at MoMA: Considering the ‘Original Emoji’ as Art” (2018), “Archives as Method: When the Artist Becomes the Art” (2019), and “Yours: Performing (in) Nikki S. Lee’s ‘Fan Club’ with Nikki S. Lee” (2019). Her curatorial research contributions include the 2018 Gwangju Biennale’s archive exhibition and the 2019 DMZ exhibition in Seoul.

Civitas Solis II, 2014. View of the exhibition, “MMCA Hyundai Motor Series 2014: Lee Bul,” National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Korea, 2014–2015. Polycarbonate sheet, acrylic mirror, LED lights, electrical wiring, 330 x 3325 x 1850 cm as installed. Commissioned by National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Korea. Sponsored by Hyundai Motor Company. © Lee Bul. Photo: Jeon Byung-cheol. Courtesy: National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Korea

Project’s partner:

A cultural and culinary landmark since 1875, Belmond Grand Hotel Europe enjoys an unrivalled location on Nevsky Prospekt. The hotel resounds with the echoes of gatherings staged there over the decades. Tsar Nicholas II entertained the King of Siam in the Krysha Ballroom; Tchaikovsky stayed twice and Grigori Rasputin was often spotted carousing in L’Europe restaurant with friends. The 266 suites and guest rooms of Belmond Grand Hotel Europe reflect the ambience and levels of luxury enjoyed by the Tsars. The sumptuous new suites are devoted to Russian avant-garde artists Kandinsky, Malevich and Rodchenko. The expansive Imperial Suite boasts a gold-domed entrance lobby. Among the hotel’s restaurants are L’Europe famous for its sumptuous Sunday brunches, Lobby Bar with authentic Art Nouveau interiors and Mezzanine Café with signature cakes.