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The conclusion of Busan Biennale 2018

The conclusion of Busan Biennale 2018

Nomeda & Gediminas Urbonas, TRANSmutation, installation view at the Museum of Contemporary Art Busan. Courtesy of Busan Biennale.

Busan Biennale 2018
Divided We Stand
September 8–November 11, 2018 

Busan Biennale
South Korea 

T +82 51 503 6579 


The Busan Biennale 2018, which explored an era of division through the theme Divided We Stand, officially concluded a 65-day journey that brought 307,662 visitors.

This edition of Busan Biennale took the unusual step of adopting an open call platform to select and discover its artistic director, offering new discourses and promoting transparency and fairness in the organizing and management process. A large number of planners applied from Korea and overseas, with Cristina Ricupero and Jörg Heiser ultimately selected as artistic director and curator, respectively. Guest curator Gahee Park and a team of advisory board (Jee-sook Beck, Youngwook Lee, Minouk Lim, and Manu D. Park) subsequently joined to facilitate preparations, resulting in an exhibition boasting a clear sense of thematic consciousness.

From the planning stages, it was declared that the Busan Biennale 2018’s focus would be on clearly communicating its theme rather than investing huge amounts of resources in an extravagant exhibition. 66 artists and artist teams from 34 countries participated in the exhibition, which was seen as a focused examination of division, psychological trauma, and the multiple resulting layers of scars through its 125 works of art. To deepen the sense of thematic consciousness, perspectives examining the past and current divisions left by the Cold War era were shown at the Museum of Contemporary Art Busan (MOCA Busan), while those looking ahead to the future were presented at the former Bank of Korea in Busan. With its focus on “what should be said and shown” rather than “how much should be said,” this year’s Busan Biennale met with a strong response even from members of the public who find contemporary art challenging.

One of the significant achievements with this exhibition was to form a new topography for Busan through art by discovering another hidden jewel containing elements of the city’s history and transforming it into an artistic space.

In addition to the exhibition, a range of programs were organized. An audio guide system featuring young North Korean defectors living in the Busan area drew some attention. A cinema program was also organized for screenings every Sunday featuring films with a connection to the event theme.

Another much talked-about part was the surprise appearance by President Moon Jae-in and the First Lady at MoCA Busan on September 14. To date, the Busan Biennale 2018 is the only biennial event visited by President.

Delving deeply into life, Busan Biennale shows commitment to gauging and suggesting zeitgeist
Rather than offering visions of a beautiful future, the Busan Biennale 2018 could be described as bringing forth truths that have been ignored. With its artwork, it directly confronted weighty topics that affect the entire world, including the Cold War, political division, and complicated psychic conditions. At the same time, it also established a setting for experiencing and contemplating works of contemporary art directly rather than viewing them from afar. By offering a chance to ask and answer questions about division—where it has existed, where it exists now, and where it will be in the future—the Busan Biennale offered an opportunity to experience art within daily life.

“There were some concerns early on about the MoCA Busan’s geographic weaknesses and the short preparation time, but I think the strong response this exhibition drew from the public shows how contemporary art has moved that much closer to people,” said Busan Bienanle Organizing Committee executive director Choi Tae Man. ​