Born in South Korea in 1964 to leftist parents at odds with the authoritarian government then in power, Lee Bul spent much of her childhood fleeing persecution and moving between temporary homes. Often feeling like an outsider in these new environments, she found relief in drawing and in making.
In 1984, Lee Bul enrolled at Hongik University in Seoul to study sculpture. Frustrated with the way that it was taught, she developed an interest in theatre. In 1987, she graduated from art school and founded Museum, a loose collective of artists and musicians. She presented her first public performance in 1988 and continued to produce provocative performance works involving her own body for the following decade.
In 1997, Lee Bul was invited to exhibit Majestic Splendor – a work consisting of rows of sequinned, decomposing fish – at New York’s Museum of Modern Art. A year later she was selected as a finalist for the Hugo Boss Prize by the Guggenheim Museum, New York, where she presented her influential Cyborg series for the first time. In 1999, she became the first woman to represent Korea at the Venice Biennale.
Since then, Lee Bul has had major solo exhibitions at museums and galleries across the world, including the New Museum of Contemporary Art, New York (2002), Fondation Cartier pour l’art contemporain, Paris (2007), Mori Art Museum, Tokyo (2012), MUDAM, Luxembourg (2013), the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Seoul (2014) and Ikon Gallery, Birmingham (2014). She lives and works in Seoul, from a hilltop studio overlooking the city below.
(Photo: Algirdas Bakas; Courtesy: Studio Lee Bul)