Lehmann Maupin, which has locations in New York, London, Hong Kong, and Seoul, now represents Sung Neung Kyung, an important figure within South Korea’s avant-garde scene who rose to prominence in the 1970s. The gallery will present historical works by the artist in its booth at Art Basel Hong Kong next week.
Working across mediums, often with an eye toward performance, photography, and archival materials, Sung is best known for his affiliation with Space and Time, an artist group active in South Korea during the 1970s and ’80s that created art and conducted research as a way to critique Western art history and theory and simultaneously process and respond to their country’s political turmoil at the time.
A work by Sung that speaks to this approach is Newspapers: After the 1st of June (1974), in which the artist cut out blocks of text from newspaper, displaying the cut-up newspapers on walls, with the cut-out portion in a cube nearby. A related performance work, Reading Newspapers (1976), would see Sung attempting to read from freshly cut-up newspapers. Later works would see him performing in front of the camera, and then staging performances that involved his body, often with the use of shaving cream.
“Conceptual art at the time was regarded as superficial,” Sung said in an interview for the Korean Artist Digital Archive. “I sought to escape the materialistic tendency, to explore art from a conceptual point of view rather than ideological.”
Though Sung artist is well known within his home country, he has never had a solo exhibition outside South Korea. Later this year, Lehmann Maupin will mount his first New York solo exhibition. Additionally, Sung will be included in the major traveling exhibition “Only the Young: Experimental Art in South Korea, 1960s–1970s,” which will debut at the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Korea in Seoul in May before heading to the Guggenheim Museum in New York in September and the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles in 2024.
In an email to ARTnews, Katherine Rochester, the gallery’s recently appointed curatorial director, said, “Since emerging as a key voice in the South Korean avant-garde, Sung Neung Kyung has inventively used the materials of everyday life to provoke an authentic reaction to our shared histories. His experimental performances center open communication with audiences through playful gestures that elicit novel expression. This dynamism defines Sung Neung Kyung’s long practice and makes him a lynchpin in any discussion of conceptual art’s rich history—and continued influence—in Korean and beyond.”