Gwangju Biennial president resigns in censorship row
Work depicting South Korean president assailed by the families of ferry disaster victims removed under pressure from local government
By Pac Pobric. Web only
Published online: 20 August 2014
Lee Yong-woo, the president of the Gwangju Biennial Foundation and one of its founding members, has resigned following a censorship row.
Earlier this month, a painting by the artist Hong Seong-dam was removed from the an exhibition “Sweet Dew” at the Gwangju Museum of Art (8 August-9 November) celebrating 20 years of the biennial, following pressure by the Gwangju city government, which has invested $2.4m in this year’s event. The picture depicts the South Korean president Park Geun-hye being assailed by the families of children who died in the country’s MV Sewol ferry disaster last April, which claimed more than 300 lives. In response to the censorship, a group of Japanese artists from Okinawa pulled their works from the show and the head curator Yoon Beom-mo resigned.
The biennial’s organisers initially said that the removal of the mural was logistical, but Lee now admits that it was taken down for political reasons. “I am taking full responsibility for what happened,” he said in a press conference on 18 August. He plans to formally resign after the opening of the main biennial exhibition “Burning Down the House” on 5 September.
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