Contemporary art, Manchester and Gwangju


In September, one of the world’s largest art bienniales opened in Gwangju, alongside the Gwangju Art Fair. The Gwangju Bienniale, founded in 1995, was a cultural peace offering funded by the South Korean government who – pre 1989  operated as a military coup – and whom had ordered the army to violently intervene during a peaceful student protest in Gwangju in May 1980.  Twenty two years on from the Gwangju Massacre, the bienniale still endeavours to engage with socially aware concepts being tackled by artists in the contemporary art world – such as the outside wall film installation by Ai Weiwei (above). Beccy Kennedy, Contemporary Art History Lecturer at MMU, went there for a week as part of her three week research trip to Korea, funded by the MMU research accelerator grant scheme. During this week, Ying Kwok, curator at the Chinese Arts Centre was also in Gwangju on the biennial curators’ course, whilst Kwong lee, director of Castlefield Gallery, visited with the International Curators Forum UK to represent Castlefield Gallery at Gwanju Art Fair.  As a result, Beccy spent some time in Seoul and Gwangju with the International Curators Forum which included visiting an artist’s studio, the Korea Art Prize opening (equivalent to the Turner Prize) at the National Museum of Contemporary Art and the opening launches of the Gwangju Art Fair and Biennial. Ying, Kwong and Beccy – three professionals working in the arts in Manchester – who simultaneously had the opportunity to visit the Gwangju Bienniale 2012 – are going to be presenting their experience  and research findings from their trips at Chinese Arts Centre (hosted by Ying Kwok) on 1st November, 6-8PM. If you are interested in attending, please book a place via the Chinese Arts Centre website:

Beccy will also highlight some of her findings from the other half of her Korean research trip, which involved a trip to the DMZ, art exhibitions and  interviews with artists and third sector professionals.

For more information on this year’s edition of the Gwangju  Biennial – entitled RoundTable, see:

For information on Castlefield Gallery (please note they have just launched a new associate members scheme), see:


About Art Theory and Practice

BA Contemporary Art History Manchester School of Art

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