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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.

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.

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.

The multifaceted work of Lee Bul has in many respects defined the development trajectory of contemporary Asian Art and has also had a significant influence on the contemporary artistic process all around the world.

The Utopia Saved exhibition will be one of Lee Bul’s most personal artistic expressions. It is the first time that the artist will so fully explain to the public the sources of the current phase of development of her artistic path and the influence that the Russian avant-garde has had on her work.

Preparations for the exhibition in Manege have been underway for about two years. Lee Bul has been quite active in all aspects of the project, from developing the initial idea and selecting the works to preparing the catalogue and

coming up with architectural solutions for the exhibition. Lee made a model of Manege’s space by hand at a scale of 1:50, which allowed her to meticulously plan the positioning of the exhibits and organise the exhibition like a journey through a site-specific landscape, opening up unexpected conceptual and visual parallels.

The exhibition in St Petersburg will focus on the architectural sculptures, environmental installations, and drawings that Lee Bul has produced since 2005, including some drawings and maquettes that have never before been shown. The exhibition includes one of her most recent pieces – Untitled (Willing To Be Vulnerable Velvet#9 JTVP3582/23 CE), a collage on velvet. Other large-scale installations from the Willing To Be Vulnerable series will be reassembled especially for the Manege exhibitions.

The project will also focus on the creative visual dialogue between Lee Bul and the Russian avant-garde. Included in the latter are works by artists Kazimir Malevich, Aleksandr Rodchenko, Aleksandra Ekster, architects Ivan Leonidov and Iakov Chernikhov, scientist and thinker Konstantin Tsiolkovsky, and others.

Various Russian museums and artistic institutions have also made a significant contribution to the exhibition. Among the participating institutions are the Russian Academy of Arts Academic Research Museum, the Tsiolkovsky State Museum of the History of Cosmonautics, the Shchusev State Museum of Architecture, the Bakhrushin State Theatre Museum, the Multimedia Art Museum in Moscow, the RF Ministry of Defence’s Central Museum of the Russian Federation

Armed Forces, the Iakov Chernikhov International Charitable Architectural Foundation, the Vologda Regional Picture Gallery, the Yekaterinburg Museum of Fine Arts, the Perm State Art Gallery, the Pskov-Izborsk Integrated Museum and Reserve, and the Imperial Porcelain Factory.

Utopia Saved opens up a new facet of contemporary art, in continuation of the centuries-old dialogue between the cultures of Russia, Europe, and Asia.

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.

A dual-language catalogue has been prepared. It includes articles by Russian and foreign experts written especially for the publication that explore various aspects of Lee Bul’s art. 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. 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 17.

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. Russian and foreign experts have been invited to participate in the symposium, including Mami Kataoka, director of the Mori Art Museum (Tokyo); Stephanie Rosenthal, director of the Martin-Gropius-Bau exhibition centre (Berlin); and of course Lee Bul herself and project 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.

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 (Curator) 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 (Co-Curator) 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.


Quoted from the press release


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