Nicolas Bourriaud appointed Artistic Director of 15th Gwangju Biennale

Nicolas Bourriaud

The Gwangju Biennale Foundation is pleased to announce that writer and curator Nicolas Bourriaud will serve as the artistic director for the 15th Gwangju Biennale, set to open in September 2024. Bourriaud is an esteemed figure in the international art scene, renowned for his expertise in art theory and curatorial abilities.

Bourriaud’s appointment is in line with the Foundation’s strategy to strengthen the Biennale’s intrinsic role as a platform for contemporary art discourse as it celebrates its 30th anniversary in 2024. The Foundation sought a curator capable of revisiting the Biennale’s essence, diagnosing contemporary social phenomena, and conveying forward-looking discourse and vision. Bourriaud’s ability to deeply and maturely address some of the most pressing issues humanity faces today, strong planning, execution skills, and theoretical foundation make him a fitting choice.

Throughout his career, Bourriaud has consistently explored art practices based on human relationships and communication, often intersecting with technology, media, and networks through his works such as Relational Aesthetics (1998), Postproduction (2002), The Radicant (2009), and Inclusions: Aesthetics of the Capitalocene (2020). The discourse of relational aesthetics, which deals with concepts of relationships, mediation, participation, and interaction, is often cited as one of the defining concepts in contemporary art.

For the 15th Gwangju Biennale, Bourriaud plans to incorporate his artistic philosophy into a discourse-driven exhibition, focusing on the spaces where the human species live, and the redefinition of its borders with other spheres. The Foundation expects the exhibition to involve multi-layered interactions surrounding human relationships, helping to diagnose the loss of humanity in a modern society fragmented due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and defining art’s role in recovery.

Bourriaud has a strong theoretical foundation and extensive experience in curating large-scale exhibitions such as Tate Triennial 2009, Taipei Biennale 2014, and Istanbul Biennale 2019. He founded and co-directed the Palais de Tokyo, Paris (1999–2006). He was Gulbenkian Curator for Contemporary Art at Tate Britain in London (2007–2010). In 2022, he curated PLANET B. Climate change and the new sublime, Palazzo Bollani, Venice for Radicants, an international curatorial cooperative which he created earlier the same year.

Park Yang-woo, President of the Gwangju Biennale Foundation, stated, “With the appointment of Nicolas Bourriaud, a prominent curatorial figure in the contemporary art world as the artistic director for the 15th Gwangju Biennale, which also marks its 30th anniversary, the Biennale will focus on its essence of fostering meaningful discourse. We anticipate this edition will become a historic exhibition that leaves a lasting impact on global cultural history.”

Upon his appointment, Bourriaud said, “I feel honored to be able to contribute to the Gwangju Biennale, which is the most important biennial in Asia and one of the most inspiring art events in the world since 1995. The Gwangju Biennale will always reinvent itself, and I am aware of the high stakes generated by its 30th anniversary.” Bourriaud plans to distance this edition from its predecessors and recent large-scale exhibitions. He added, “The exhibition will address a universal and apparently simple theme, our relation to space. Although it may seem straightforward, this theme will be challenging to explore, because re-drawing or redefining space appears as a common issue between climate change, feminism, post-colonialism, and the future of the planet. I envision the main exhibition as a cinematic journey, leading the audience through different “sequences.” I intend to activate the city itself by infiltrating artistic elements throughout Gwangju.

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