A leading Korean contemporary artist, Lee Bul is widely credited with illuminating the philosophical quest for modern cultural history in the 20th century. As a sculpture major in college, she gravitated from traditional wood and stone to unconventional materials, such as plastic, beads and fabric. She also explored performance art by using her own body. During the late 1980s, she began presenting performance art and experimental installation works that questioned stereotypes and social contradictions, such as gender roles.
In the 1990s, she created a sensation in the art world with a sculptural series called Cyborg that represented humanity’s desire for a utopian existence amid the rise of machines, as well as with her Anagram series, structures that combined biotechnology with organic matter, such as plants and insects. After her invitational exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in New York in 1997, Lee Bul was named a finalist for the 1998 Hugo Boss Prize by the Guggenheim Museum in New York. She was selected as one of the artists for the South Korean Pavilion at the Venice Biennale in 1999 and included in Director Harald Szeemann’s famed curated exhibition dAperTutto at the Biennale that same year, winning Menzione d’Onore(Special Mention).
In the 2000s, her work developed into large-scale architectural and landscape installation projects that questioned human existence. Through a series of diverse works, she pursued perceptions of the relationship between humankind and technology as well as the impact of futuristic narratives and ideas of utopia. From 2018 through 2019, she mounted a large-scale retrospective exhibition that opened at the Hayward Gallery in London and traveled to the Martin Gropius Bau in Berlin. Her work has also been exhibited at dozens of major art museums and galleries worldwide, including the Vancouver Art Gallery; Fondation Cartier pour l’art contemporain in Paris; the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia in Sydney; and The New Museum in New York. This year, her work will again be exhibited at the Venice Biennale, which runs from May to November 2019, two decades after her 1999 debut appearance. She was invited to show her work again by Ralph Rugoff, curator of the Venice Biennale’s 58th International Art Exhibition, themed May You Live in Interesting Times. Lee Bul’s exhibit includes a new installation created with barbed wire from guard posts that were removed from inside the Demilitarized Zone(DMZ).