About the Event

We are very pleased to present Dansaekhwa, as part of the official Collateral Events of the 56th International Art Exhibition–la Biennale di Venezia. Curated by Yongwoo Lee and organized by Boghossian Foundation together with Kukje Gallery, Seoul and Tina Kim Gallery, New York, Dansaekhwa is a landmark exhibition. Dansaekhwa is a comprehensive introduction to one of the late 20th century’s most compelling art movements, and while its artists each have a unique philosophy, many overlapping concerns unite their work. These include a strong aesthetic ideal focused on the unity between artist and nature as well as a very refined approach to mark making. This emphasis on native cultural idioms was politicized during the 20th century when post-war Korean identity was in a state of radical flux. It is in these tumultuous times that Dansaekhwa evolved and helped shape modern Korean art history. While specifically rooted in a Korean context, Dansaekhwa must be seen as having important formal and conceptual links to parallel movements in Japan and the West including Gutai, Mono-ha and Abstract Expressionism. 

The exhibition will showcase the works of key masters who defined Dansaekhwa’s development in the 1970s, providing an essential conceptual framework to appreciate this important movement. A subject of renewed interest in both Korea and internationally, this is a timely exhibition that explores a group of artists whose exquisitely beautiful and politically engaged work continues to have a profound influence on contemporary art. The participating artists are Chung Chang-Sup, Chung Sang-Hwa, Ha Chong-Hyun, KIM Whanki, Kwon Young-Woo, Lee Ufan and Park Seo-Bo.

Yongwoo Lee has organized the exhibition to trace the development of Dansaekhwa. While a seminal historical movement that has had lasting influence, Dansaekhwa continues to be a vital framework with many of its founding artists continuing to make work. As such the curator has chosen to focus on its development over five decades, from the 1960s­ to today. By including works completed in different periods, the curator will emphasize how the social milieu within Korea had an impact on the development and public reception of Dansaekhwa.

In order to set the stage for many of the predominant themes that came to be associated with Dansaekhwa, including its emphasis on monochromatic compositions and innovative use of materials, Yongwoo Lee has included a major group of works from the 1960s by the artist KIM Whanki. This is an historic opportunity to see Whanki’s role as a foundational member in the post-war Korean art scene whose work and ideas contributed to the advance of Dansaekhwa.

The exhibition will occupy all three floors of Palazzo Contarini-Polignac, the iconic 15th century Renaissance palace located on the Grand Canal. Yongwoo Lee has chosen to use the multi-storied building to organize the exhibition, employing each floor to frame a time period or specific artist. With this in mind the ground floor will be devoted to new, commissioned work by Lee Ufan consisting of both painting and sculpture.

The exhibition will include both historical pieces from the early days of Dansaekhwa as well as more recent works. By including this range of studio practice spanning multiple decades, Yongwoo Lee has been able to frame the evolving ideas and ongoing tensions that exist in contemporary Dansaekhwa. In addition, an important academic conference focused on Dansaekhwa was held in January, 2015 and a recording of this event will be shown to engage the public and give necessary historical insight into its beginnings, as well as to frame some of the ongoing debates regarding its influence. Coupled with a range of related archival materials, scholarship and ephemera, the exhibition will be the first rigorous academic presentation of Dansaekhwa to be held outside of Korea and will be a landmark moment in its introduction to the international community.

A comprehensive catalog will be published to accompany this historic exhibition, featuring essays by leading scholars including Melissa Chiu, Director at the Smithsonian’s Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, D.C.; Doryun Chong, Chief Curator at M+ Museum in Hong Kong; Joan Kee, Associate Professor at University of Michigan, Ann Arbor; Lewis Biggs, Chairman of Institute for Public Art in Hong Kong; Mika Yoshitake, Assistant Curator at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden; Yongwoo Lee, President of the International Biennial Association; Jeremy Lewison, former Director of Collections at Tate; and Alexandra Munroe, Samsung Senior Curator at the Guggenheim Museum in New York.

About the Venue: Palazzo Contarini-Polignac

Overlooking the Grand Canal between the Academy Bridge and Palazzo Barbarigo the Palazzo Contarini-Polignac is one of the most important and celebrated early Renaissance buildings in Venice (it is also known as Contarini dal Zaffo). Its facade is covered with marble evoking both Tuscan Classicism as well as Byzantine and Renaissance influences. Most likely it was designed by Giovanni Buora, although earlier scholarship attributes the palace to Mauro Codussi. It is still unknown who owned the palace in the late fifteenth century. A reference to esteemed Venetian family Contarini appears in a document from 1758 when the building was sold to the merchant Manzoni. Two friezes by Giovanni Domenico Tiepolo are conserved in the building as well as notable stucco reliefs on the second floor. At the beginning of the 20th century, the salon of the Princess Winnaretta de Polignac nee Singer, which had great importance for the musical avant-garde in Europe, was held in the palace. Among others, Ethel Smyth, Ezra Pound and Igor Stravinsky were guests in Palazzo Contarini-Polignac. The facade was restored from 2004 to 2007.