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FRIEZE’s Top Exhibitions of 2022: The Busan Biennale 2022, Sung Hwan Kim’s Solo Exhibition, and More

Seoul. Photo by Ciaran O'Brien on Unsplash

The year 2023 has arrived, and the art world is analyzing the keywords and trends that characterized the art world in 2022. It is impossible to discuss the Korean art world of 2022 without mentioning Kiaf and Frieze Seoul’s joint art fair, as many of the events in the country revolved around this inaugural edition. For thematic shows, Sculptural Impulse at the Seoul Museum of Art was frequently mentioned as the most noteworthy contemporary art exhibition, while MMCA Hyundai Motor Series 2022: Choe U-Ram – Little Ark was one of the most mentioned solo exhibitions last year.

Various media outlets worldwide have also selected exhibitions that reflected meaningful insights from various parts of the world in the past year. One of them was the London-based contemporary art magazine frieze, which in December 2022 published four lists of the top ten exhibitions in Europe, the UK, the US, and the rest of the world.

Two selected exhibitions in frieze‘s Top 10 Shows from Across the World in 2022 were held in South Korea. Busan Biennale 2022: We, on the Rising Wave and Night Crazing, a solo exhibition by Sung Hwan Kim at Barakat Contemporary, were introduced in the article. The solo show of Korean-American artist Christine Sun Kim was also included in the list.

Partial exhibition view of "Busan Biennale 2022: We, on the Rising Wave" at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Busan. (September 3 – November 6, 2022). Photo by Aproject Company.

We, on the Rising Wave, the exhibition title of the Busan Biennale 2022, was held from September 3 to November 6, 2022, at various locations in Busan city, including the Museum of Contemporary Art Busan, Pier 1 of Busan Port, a former shipbuilding factory in Yeongdo, and a house in Choryang, featuring a total of 239 works by artists and art collectives, born between the 1930s and 1990s, from 25 countries. The Biennale welcomed a total of 138,562 visitors.

Haeju Kim, Artistic director of the Busan Biennale 2022. Courtesy of the Busan Biennale Organizing Committee.

The Biennale was led by artistic director Haeju Kim, who had previously served as deputy director of the Art Sonje Center in Seoul. Using “waves” as a metaphor, the Biennale elaborated on the turbulent modern history, society, environment, and topography of Busan City, as well as the turbulence of modern society amidst huge technological changes. The exhibition also sought global interconnection by expanding Busan’s story to other regions and cultures, with a particular focus on “migration,” “labor and women,” “the ecosystem of the city,” and “technological change and placeness” as its four major keywords.

Numerous art experts recognized the exhibition for its in-depth and multilayered research on the city of Busan. It was observed that the exhibition venues and the artworks not only reflected Busan’s urban narrative but also intersected with various events, times, spaces, conflicts, and issues surrounding the area in relation to the reality of the world.

Frieze’s article quoted Park Jaeyong’s review, which stated that this biennale “offers a template for how a large-scale exhibition can retain a focus on local history and identity while accounting for diverse perspectives.”

Partial exhibition view of "Busan Biennale 2022: We, on the Rising Wave" at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Busan. (September 3 – November 6, 2022). Photo by Aproject Company.

The Busan Biennale 2022 has also received reviews from other global media outlets, including Artnet News and Artforum

Abhijan Toto mentioned in Artforum that “for this year’s edition of the Busan Biennale, artistic director Haeju Kim offered a deeply considered and elegantly curated exhibition that spoke both to local histories specific to the southern city and wider transnational concerns” and that “it might at first glance seem obvious to devise a port city biennial around the idea of the sea … but Kim managed to consistently steer us away from the banal with an exhibition that quietly challenged national histories and patriarchal narratives.”

ART iT, which featured an email interview with artistic director Kim conducted by Andrew Maerkle, stated that director Kim “put together a smart, dynamic exhibition that situated Busan amid historic and ongoing transnational flows of commerce, conflict, and migration.”

Partial exhibition view of “Sung Hwan Kim: Night Crazing” at Barakat Contemporary, Seoul. (August 30 - October 30, 2022). Photo by Aproject Company.

Night Craving, Sung Hwan Kim’s solo exhibition, was held at two Barakat locations in Samcheong-dong, Seoul. The exhibition opening took place during Frieze Week from August 30 to October 30, 2022

Sung Hwan Kim (b. 1975) won the Hermes Korea Art Prize in 2007 and has presented works on international stages, including the Museum of Modern Art in New York (2021), the Venice Biennale (2017), and the Tanks at Tate Modern in London (2012). Through various media such as installation, video, performance, music, light, and drawing, he combines issues related to modern and contemporary history, social structure, cultural customs, and educational systems with his personal history, fantasy, rumor, politics, and culture.

Regarding the artwork Love Before Bond (2017) in the exhibition, Hayoung Chung, guest writer for frieze, stated, “Overlaid with a narration that includes quotes from the writer and activist James Baldwin, the work spins together an ahistorical exploration of aesthetics and otherness.”

Haeyun Park of Artforum observed Night Crazing to “track the ways in which narratives of modernity and progress in postwar Korea intersect with the complex legacy of Cold War politics that still reverberates through the collective psyche of its inhabitants.”

Christine Sun Kim and Thomas Mader, 'LOOKY LOOKY,' 2018, two-channel HD video, 6 min 44 sec.

A solo exhibition by a Korean-American sound artist based in Berlin, Germany, was also among the world’s top 10 exhibitions. Oh Me Oh My, Christine Sun Kim’s first large-scale solo museum exhibition, is on display at both the Remai Modern in Saskatoon and the Contemporary Art Gallery in Vancouver until January 8, 2023.

Christine Sun Kim, who was born deaf, has utilized a variety of media, including visual art, composition, performance, and others, to investigate the materiality of sound and alter the prevalent way of thinking about language.

Kim’s work will also be displayed at the upcoming 14th Gwangju Biennale: Soft and Weak Like Water, scheduled to take place on April 7 of this year.

Other exhibitions in frieze’s Top 10 Shows from Across the World in 2022 include Yayoi Kusama’s solo exhibition at Hong Kong’s M+; Lonely Vectors, a group exhibition of 10 local and international artists held at the Singapore Art Museum; Pop South Asia: Artistic Explorations in the Popular exhibition, which showcased over 100 works by South Asian artists from the Sharjah Art Foundation in the United Arab Emirates; General Idea at the National Gallery of Canada; Clarice Lispector’s solo exhibition at Instituto Moreira Salles in Brazil; Rirkrit Tiravanija’s solo exhibition at Kurimanzutto in Mexico City; and a solo exhibition of an artist collective, Mapa Teatro, at Museo de Arte Miguel Urrutia in Bogotá, Colombia.

Installation view of Thu Van Tran, 'Colors of Grey,' 2022, Carnegie Museum of Art, courtesy of the artist and Carnegie Museum of Art; photo: Sean Eaton.

In addition, a few of the 2022 group exhibitions featured in The Top 10 Shows in the US of 2022 also included some Korean artists and artists of Korean descent.

Is it morning for you yet?: 58th Carnegie International at the Carnegie Museum of Art in Pittsburgh, USA, includes not only modern Korean masters such as Joong Seop Lee (1916–1956), Park Rehyun (1920–1976), and Soun-Gui Kim (b. 1946) but also younger contemporary artists such as Mire Lee (b. 1988) and Yooyun Yang (b. 1985). 

In addition, to celebrate the 51st anniversary of the historic exhibition Twenty-Six Contemporary Women Artists, curated by Lucy Lippard in 1971, 52 Artists: A Feminist Milestone is on display at The Aldrich in Ridgefield, USA, until January 8, 2023, and features the work of Korean-American artist Anna Park (b. 1996). 

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