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Lee Kun-yong, Relay Life, 1979/2021 © Lee Kun-yong, courtesy Pace Gallery

Lee Kun-Yong

14 January 2022 - 3 March 2022



Pace is pleased to present a solo exhibition of Lee’s work at its Hong Kong gallery in 2022. Pace is pleased to begin representing the boundary-pushing performance artist Lee Kun-Yong on a global scale. The artist’s forthcoming solo exhibition at Pace’s Hong Kong space, which runs from January 14 to March 3, 2022, marks his third presentation with the gallery.

Lee, whose practice spans performance, sculpture, installation, and video, rose to prominence as a leading figure of the Korean avant- garde during the 1970s, a period in which the country grappled with authoritarianism and repression of freedom of expression. He was a founding member of the artist group Space and Time, and he is widely regarded as a pioneer of performance art in Korea. Works from one of the artist’s most iconic series, Bodyscape, which he began in 1976, will be on view in Pace’s exhibition in Hong Kong. For these works, Lee approached canvases from various angles, creating records of his physical relationships to his chosen medium. Lee’s experimentations of this kind yield bold abstractions that document his body’s movements. The artist is known for sustaining his performances, like Bodyscape, over the course of many years of his career.

Pace’s exhibition will also feature videos of Lee performing Relay Life and Five Steps. With Relay Life, which debuted at the 1979 Bienal de São Paulo, the artist lays out his possessions in a line and ultimately lies face down at the end of the trail of objects. As art historian Joan Kee has written of the work, “The last image, in which he appears face down, encapsulates Lee’s ideas about the necessity of the unnecessary gesture, and seems to propose inaction as the most eloquent action of all.”

In Five Steps, first performed at the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art in Seoul in 1975, Lee uses charcoal to mark his movements directly on the floor, five steps away in various directions from a single starting point. The artist counts his steps in Korean as he makes them. This work exemplifies Lee’s interest in the power of mark making as a record of the body’s movements and experiences.


Lee Kun-Yong (b. 1942, Sariwon, Korea) is known for his performances that reimagine the ways that the body and its movements can be understood across time. The artist cultivated his highly experimental practice during the 1970s, when martial law and authoritarianism presented a major affront to civil rights and freedom of expression in South Korea. Lee earned a BFA from Hongik University in Seoul in 1967 and an MA in art education from Keimyung University in Daegu in 1982. He is considered a key figure of the Korean avant-garde, and he was a founding member of the artist group Space and Time.

Among the notable group exhibitions he has participated in are the Paris Biennale in 1973; the Bienal de São Paulo in 1979; the Gwangju Biennale in 2000; and the Busan Biennale in 2014. One of the artist’s most famous bodies of work is Bodyscape, in which he approaches his canvases from different angles and uses painting to record the motions of his body. Today, Lee continues to work on series he began in the early years of his career. Much of his ongoing performance work engages with the relationships between his body, his chosen artistic medium, and viewers of his work. The artist lives and works in Seoul.

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