The Busan Biennale Organization Committee, headed by executive director CHOI Tae Man, has begun final preparations after selecting Paris-based Cristina Ricupero and Berlin-based Jörg Heiser as artistic directors to plan the Busan Biennale 2018, which will be taking place this September.

Open selection brings applications from Korean and overseas curators representing different backgrounds

The selection process for the Busan Biennale 2018 artistic director adopted a different format this time with an open recruitment approach designed to identify curators capable of offering new discourses in contemporary art. Between December 1 and 15, 2017, the organizing committee assembled an initial candidate pool based on open recruitment and recommendation committee nominations, with Korean and overseas curators from a range of backgrounds applying as individuals and teams. Self-introductions and exhibition plans submitted by candidates were used for candidate screening and narrowing of the pool by the academic committee (December 15–18) and executive committee (December 18). The organizing committee then requested additional plans from the final candidates to examine their actual planning capabilities for the Busan Biennale 2018, including theme selection, budget management, and artist selection. On January 5, a meeting of the selection committee was held and a video meeting was staged between the candidates and selection committee members. Presentations and questions based on the additional plan were used as part of a careful exhibition director selection process.

Team of Cristina Ricupero and Jörg Heiser selected

The final selectees to serve as Busan Biennale 2018 artistic directors were Cristina Ricupero and Jörg Heiser, who applied for the open recruitment as a team.

Cristina Ricupero is a globally active independent curator with close ties to the South Korean art world, having served as European section commissioner for the Gwangju Biennale 2006, jury member for the 2012 Hermes Foundation Missulsang (art award), and curatorial adviser for SeMA Biennale Mediacity Seoul 2016. Her major projects include Nuit Blanche Monaco (2016, with Heiser) and the exhibitions Secret Societies(2011-12) and The Crime Was Almost Perfect (2014). Her relationship with the Busan Biennale dates to 2011, when she was a presenter at an academic symposium on “Contemporary Art and Its Social Practices.” She worked as a curator at NIFCA (the Nordic Institute for Contemporary Art) in Helsinki from 2000 to 2005 and also as Associate Director of Exhibitions at the ICA in London from 2000 until 2004.

Jörg Heiser, who works as part of a team with Ricupero, has been active for over decades since 1998 as an editor of the London-based global art magazine frieze. He has also been a regular contributor to the German national newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung since 1997. Holding a doctoral degree in art history and a master’s degree in philosophy, he has been Director of the Institute for Art in Context since 2016 and is a professor at the University of the Arts, Berlin. Now Heiser is poised to work with Ricupero in directing the Busan Biennale 2018.

The exhibition plan submitted by Ricupero and Heiser was consistently praised from the academic committee screening to the selection committee review process, raising hopes for an artistic discussion of Korea’s situation and Busan’s regionality while using contemporary art to pinpoint the core of the psychological issues precipitated by conflict and antagonism, which are currently emerging as a worldwide issue.

Now that the artistic directors have been chosen, the organizing committee plans to begin full-scale preparations for the Busan Biennale 2018 scheduled for this September, with future announcements to come on the exhibition theme, participating artists, and other important details.

The Busan Biennale is an international contemporary art exhibition held in even-numbered years. Its previous incarnation is the Busan Youth Biennale, which first emerged as a self-organized event by young Busan-area artists in 1981. As an independently created event, the Busan Biennale has distinguished itself from other biennials with its expression of Busan’s city identity and its experimental and dynamic exhibitions. The Busan Biennale 2018 is scheduled to take place in September 2018.