Youn Bummo, director of South Korea’s National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art.

Youn Bum-mo Named Director of South Korea’s National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art

Art historian and critic Youn Bum-mo has been appointed director of the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art (MMCA), which has four locations in South Korea. He will manage the museum’s exhibitions, collections, and public programming for a three-year term that began on February 1. 

“The MMCA will serve as a discursive platform for art historians and professionals, and will bring exhibitions and public programs that are built upon art history—a museum that is accommodating, friendly, and accessible to everyone,” Youn told Sbiztoday.

Youn comes from academia—he was professor of art history at Seoul’s Dongguk University—and has written about Minjung art (“the people’s art”), the South Korean political art movement that emerged in response to the 1980 Gwangju Massacre, when the Korean military dictatorship under President Chung Doo-hwan murdered hundreds of peaceful pro-democracy demonstrators. He was also the artistic director of the 2018 Changwon Sculpture Biennale. The appointment was announced by South Korea’s Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism.

In 2014, Youn curated the Gwangju Biennale, but he resigned in protest when a work by artist Hong Sung-damSewol Owol, was pulled from the exhibition by the government. The piece addressed the 2014 sinking of the Sewol ferry—which caused the death of some 250 South Korean high school students and was the result of government negligence—and depicted a caricature of former president Park Geun-hye as a chicken. The Gwangju Biennale Foundation’s president, Lee Young-woo, also resigned over the controversy and participating artists such as Lee Yun-yop and Jeong Young-chang withdrew their works from the exhibition.

Youn succeeds Bartomeu Marí, whose tenure ended in December. Marí’s appointment to MMCA in 2015 sparked protest from artists including Haegue Yang and filmmaker Park Chan-kyong due to his role in the censorship of a work by Austrian artist Ines Doujak. Not Dressed for Conquering, 2010, a sculpture depicting the former Spanish king Juan Carlos being sodomized by Bolivian labor leader and activist Domitila Chúngara was to be featured in the exhibition “The Beast and the Sovereign” at the Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona, which Marí previously directed. Marí canceled the show the day before it was set to open then reversed his decision and fired Paul B. Preciado and Valentín Roma, two of the four curators of the exhibition.