Outgoing Gwangju Biennale President Speaks Out Against ‘Unfounded Claims’ Amid Investigation

Outgoing Gwangju Biennale President Speaks Out Against ‘Unfounded Claims’ Amid Investigation

A controversy at the top of South Korea’s most important biennial has deepened, with its outgoing president calling claims of misconduct by its union “unfounded.”

Earlier this month, Sunjung Kim, who has served as president of the Gwangju Biennale Foundation since 2017, announced that she would step down from the role when her contract expires at the end of June. She has been accused of a lack of transparency and “abandonment of duty” by the Gwangju Biennale Labor Union.

Now, in a lengthy statement posted to Facebook on Wednesday, Kim said she has been the subject of “factual distortions.” In her statement, Kim said that she had attempted to reform labyrinthine systems of management in place at the biennial without violating any rules.

“During this process, I drew upon my thirty-year experience as a curator and eagerly sought the advice of the local artistic community as well as international colleagues if the issues were beyond my expertise,” she wrote. Because the particulars of the allegations are still being investigated by the foundation, she said she could not comment on them.

ArtAsiaPacific reported that Korea’s Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism and the city of Gwangju will audit the foundation because of Kim and the union’s conflicting claims. Curated by Defne Ayas and Natasha Ginwala, this year’s biennial was delayed twice because of the pandemic. Since the biennial launched in April, various figures have departed the exhibition’s team and the union staged a protest over employees’ contracts.

ARTnews has reached out to the Gwangju Biennale for comment. So far, the foundation has not yet commented on the controversy.

The Gwangju Biennale is one of the top biennials in the world, with Okwui Enwezor, Massimiliano Gioni, and Jessica Morgan among those who have curated it in the past. Hundreds of thousands of people typically come to see the biennial, which is closely watched in the international circuit because of the experimental quality of its presentations.

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