Curatorial practice now seeks to break down fixed ideas and introduce new ways of experiencing art.
It now includes not only caring for artworks and displaying objects but also creative activities such as organizing exhibitions that connect different contexts and cultures.
This shift in the role has shed light on curatorial activities, and there are several curators who exert much influence on the contemporary art world.
A few examples of internationally renowned curators include Cecilia Alemani, the current artistic director of the Venice Biennale; Hou Hanru, the artistic director of MAXXI Museum in Rome; and Hans Ulrich Obrist, the artistic director of London’s Serpentine Galleries.
There are also a number of international curators of Korean descent who use their curatorial practices to add new narratives to contemporary art.
Doryun Chong is a Korean-born curator who is currently the deputy director and chief curator of M+, Asia’s first global museum of contemporary visual culture, in Hong Kong. Chong received a lot of attention from the Korean and international art world in 2009 when he became the first Korean to work as an associate curator of painting and sculpture at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York.
Chong has been curating exhibitions that highlight marginalized Asian artists, with a focus on art after the 20th century. From 2003 to 2009, he worked at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, introducing Chinese-French artist Huang Yong Ping (1954–2019) in 2005, Japanese artist Tetsumi Kudo (1935–1990) in 2008, and South Korean artist Haegue Yang (b. 1971) in 2009.
Chong was also the artistic director of the Korean Pavilion at the 49th Venice Biennale in 2001, where he introduced South Korean artist Do Ho Suh (b. 1962) and Korean-American Michael Joo (b. 1966). He was also the director of the Busan Biennale in 2006.
Doryun Chong was born in Seoul and moved to the United States in 1992 after graduating from high school. Other than M+ and MoMA, he has also worked at the Asian Museum of Art in San Francisco, the Berkeley Museum of Art, and the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis.
American of South Korean descent Clara Kim was named as the chief curator and director of curatorial affairs at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles on May 25, 2022 and will begin her new position on September 1, 2022.
Clara Kim has been the Daskalopoulos Senior Curator of International Art at Tate Modern in London since 2016, and she has contributed to expanding Tate’s permanent collection by adding “post-colonial and transnational art histories that re-chart and re-map narratives of art.”
In 1990, she introduced various Korean artists to the international art world, including Lee Bul (b. 1964), Choi Jeong Hwa (b. 1961), Park Chan-kyung (b. 1965), and Kim Beom (b. 1963). In 2018, she invited 26 artists from Asia, Latin America, and Africa to the Gwangju Biennale under the theme of Imagined Nations/Modern Utopias.
Kim has also organized special exhibitions at Tate Modern for artist and film director Steve McQueen in 2020 and African-American artist Kara Walker in 2019 and has curated American artist Mark Bradford’s solo exhibition at the Rockbund Art Museum in Shanghai in 2015.
Clara, who was born in Seoul, immigrated to the US at the age of five. She has also worked as a gallery director at Red Cat in Los Angeles and a curator at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis.
Sook-Kyung Lee is Tate Modern’s senior curator of international art and the artistic director of the 14th Gwangju Biennale, which will take place in 2023.
Lee has been active in contemporary art curating for 28 years and has worked to broaden the global contemporary art world by raising awareness of Asian art, especially Korean art. Many of her curatorial practices add alternative narratives to Western-centric discourses.
In 2015, she was the commissioner and curator of the Korean Pavilion at the 56th Venice Biennale, where the works of Moon Kyungwon and Jeon Joon-ho were displayed. Lee also co-curated Nam June Paik’s solo exhibition in 2010 at Germany’s Kunstpalast Museum. She introduced several Korean artists at Kings Lynn Art Centre in the UK in 2007 and 2008, including Yeondoo Jung (b. 1969), Kira Kim (b. 1974), and Yoo Seungho (b. 1974).
For the upcoming Gwangju Biennale in 2023, Lee stated that she will represent a “transformation of the relationship between centers and peripheries, truly equal connections and exchanges, and a vision for better human communities.”
After majoring in art studies in Korea, Lee held the position of curator at the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art (MMCA) between 1993 and 1998. Lee joined Tate in 2007 after earning a master’s degree and a doctorate in the UK.