The Gwangju Biennale, which was founded in September 1995 in the city of Gwangju in the South Jeolla province of South Korea, is Asia's first and most prestigious contemporary art biennale. Founded in memory of spirits of civil uprising of the 1980 repression of the Gwangju Democratization Movement, the Gwangju Biennale presents a global perspective on contemporary art.
Under the helm of a progression of international curators - including Massimiliano Gioni, Kerry Brougher, Sukwon Chang, Okwui Enwezor, Charles Esche, Hou Hanru, Honghee Kim, Yongwoo Lee, Youngchul Lee, Kwangsoo Oh, Wankyoung Sung and Harald Szeemann - the Gwangju Biennale has established itself as a highlight of the international contemporary art biennale circuit. Centered in Gwangju's 8,100 square meter Biennale Hall in Jungoui Park, the Gwangju Biennale's presence has elevated the city of 1.4 million to become a cultural hub of East Asia.
The Gwangju Biennale Foundation also hosts the Gwangju Design Biennale, which was founded in 2004. The Gwangju Biennale is hosted by the Gwangju Biennale Foundation and The Metropolitan City of Gwangju.
Under the theme of ROUNDTABLE, the 9th Gwangju Biennale was described as an open-ended series of collaborations curated by a team of six Co-Artistic Directors - Nancy Adajania, Wassan Al-Khudhairi, Mami Kataoka, Sunjung Kim, Carol Yinghua Lu and Alia Swastika. Over 92 artists, artist groups, and temporary collectives from 43 countries participated in the exhibition, which ran from September 7th to November 11th, 2012. ROUNDTABLE was expressed through six interrelated sub-themes: Logging In and Out of Collectivity | Re-visiting History | Transient Encounters | Intimacy, Autonomy and Anonymity | Back to the Individual Experience | Impact of Mobility on Space and Time. Conceived of as an evolving project, ROUNDTABLE included 43 new commissions and 15 residencies, as well as a series of Workstations and E-Journals in the build up to and during the main exhibition, aimed at engaging with a global audience.
- Beyond Borders: The 1st Gwangju Biennale -- 20th September to 20th November 1995
- Unmapping the Earth: The 2nd Gwangju Biennale -- 1st September to 27th November 1997
- Man and Space: The 3rd Gwangju Biennale -- 29th March to 7th June 2000
- P_A_U_S_E: The 4th Gwangju Biennale -- 29th March - 29th June 2002
- A Grain of Dust A Drop of Water: The 5th Gwangju Biennale -- 10th Sept to 11th Nov 2004
- Fever Variations: The 6th Gwangju Biennale -- 8th September to 11th November 2006
- On the Road / Position Papers / Insertions: The 7th Gwangju Biennale -- 5th Sept to 9th Nov 2008
- 10,000 LIVES: The 8th Gwangju Biennale -- 3rd September to 7th November 2010
- ROUNDTABLE: The 9th Gwangju Biennale -- 7th September to 11th November 2012
Beyond Borders: The 1st Gwangju Biennale (5th Sept to 20th Nov 1995) 
The first Gwangju Biennale featured 660 artists from 58 countries, exhibiting over 817 artworks (with 92 artists in the main exhibition and 249 in the special exhibition) and was developed by Artistic Director Yongwoo Lee. Its theme "Beyond the Borders" conveyed a message of global citizenship that transcended divisions between ideologies, territories, religion, race, culture, humanity, and the arts. The biennale, which hosted over 1.6 million visitors, intended to establish new orders and relationships between the arts and mankind.
The exhibition was composed of six regionally focused sections created in collaboration with area curators: West Europe and East Europe: Jean de Loisy (France) and Anda Rottenburg (Poland) / North America: Kathy Halbreich (USA) / South America: Wan-kyung Sung (South Korea) / Asia: Kwang-su Oh (South Korea) / The Middle East and Africa: Clive Adams (Great Britain) / Korea and Oceania: Hong-joon Yu (South Korea).
Unmapping the Earth: The 2nd Gwangju Biennale (1st Sept to 27th Nov 1997) 
The second Gwangju Biennale was developed to overcome National Borders and the prejudice of center-periphery - under the leadership of Artistic Director Young-chul Lee. 117 artists from 39 countries participated.
While the visual concept of negative space often manifests itself in a limited manner in Western art, it is almost omnipresent in the East, and is most easily defined as the space that is left around the characters and images in a composition. Despite the connotations of the word “negative” it also holds the implication of possibility, new creation, and new creativity. In a broader sense, it can represent resistance against encroaching modern society and the destruction of the primeval. The theme of "Unmapping the Earth" was drawn from the Korean concept "Yeobaik", which literally means "empty space" - a fundamental motif of Korean art.
The main exhibition was designed to discuss the importance of the flow of the natural in its relationship to negative space to create a dialogue on a harmonious coexistence between the built and the pristine. It was composed of five parts by thematic curators: Speed / Water: Harald Szeemann, Space / Fire: Kyong Park, Hybrid / Wood: Richard Koshalek, Power / Metal: Wan-kjung Sung, and Becoming / Earth: Bernard Marcadé.
Man and Space: The 3rd Gwangju Biennale (29th March to 7th June 2000) 
Man and Space: The 3rd Gwangju Biennale was curated by Kwangsu Oh. "人 (Man)" is a pictograph that symbolizes a standing man, and implies that man is the most precious among creatures, while the pictograph "間 (Space)" originally symbolizes the gap between doors. In a broader sense, it is used to refer to distance, relationships, intervals, the center, a border, or contact. In terms of culture, man (人), alongside "間 (Space)," represents man as a social being by deconstructing and rebuilding the original meaning of each pictograph. In this way, the theme of Man+Space was an attempt to dismantle all past contradictions and divisions in human lives and construct a new notion of living.
245 artists from 46 countries participated in the 3rd Gwangju Biennale.
P_A_U_S_E: The 4th Gwangju Biennale (29th March to 29th June 2002) 
Curated by Charles Esche, Hou Hanru, and SUNG Wan Kyung, the theme of the fourth Gwangju Biennale, "P_A_U_S_E", was adopted from the Eastern concept of meditation to encourage mankind to withdraw from the rigors of contemporary society and prepare for a new leap forward. The exhibition invited the participation of non-profit and experimental art groups and movements from throughout the world to promote communication, and to propose a withdrawal from the narrative of modern art history, even from modern society itself, in an effort to build a new way forward.
Secondary focuses included the cultural and artistic growth of the host city Gwangju, on alternative art, and on communication among artist groups. 325 artists from 31 countries participated in P_A_U_S_E.
A Grain of Dust A Drop of Water: The 5th Gwangju Biennale (10th Sept to 11th Nov 2004) 
The Gwangju Biennale 2004, curated by Yongwoo Lee and co-curated by Kerry Brougher and Sukwon Chang, acted as a cultural forum experimenting with the elevation of the spectator from passive observer to active participant by working collaboratively to produce works of art with the biennale's selected artists. "A Grain of Dust A Drop of Water" is a vital natural phenomenon and ecological interpretation of order describing the cycle of creation and extinction. Dust suggests noise and cries, covers the objects of our conspicuous consumption that are remains of our industrial society. A drop of water suggests the medium of creation, animates the inanimate thus allowing the cycle of life. Dust, together with water, heals the negative elements of the contemporary society, thus revitalizing the new cultural & aesthetics values in the present world.
Artists included: Allora & Calzadilla (Cuba) - El Anatsui (Ghana) - Alfredo & Isabel Aquilizan (Philippines) - BUAN People (Korea) - Walterico Caldas (Brazil) - Pablo Cardoso (Ecuador) - Jota Castro (Peru) - Russell Crotty (US) - Jimmie Durham (US) - Asa Elzen (Sweden) - Environmental Artists (Korea) - Bruna Esposito (Italy) - Mounir Fatmi (Morocco) - Nayia Frangouli (Greece) - Kendell Geers (South Africa) - Joong-ki Geum (Korea) - Lyudmila Gorlova (Russia) - Richard Hamilton (UK) - Pierre Huyghe (France) - Koji Iijima (Japan) - Emily Jacir (Palestine) - Joon-ho Jeon (Korea) - Magdalena Jetelova (Czech Republic) - Soo-cheon Jheon (Korea) - Brian Jungen (Canada) - Eduardo Kac (Brazil) - Anish Kapoor (India) - Byoung-jong Kim (Korea) - Jin-ran Kim (Korea) - Seung-young Kim (Korea) - Kyoung-ho Lee (Korea) - Zilla Leutenegger (Switzerland) - Marco Maggi (Uruguay) - Malam (Cameroon) - Teresa Margolles (Mexico) - Eva Marisaldi (Italy) - Ilka Meyer (Germany) - Tatsuo Miyajima (Japan) - Zwelethu Mthethwa (South Africa) - Antoni Muntadas (Spain) - Wangechi Mutu (Kenya) - Ibrahim Nasrallah (Jordan) - Francis Ng (Singapore) - Ahmet Oktem (Turkey) - Lucy Orta (France) - Muyiwa Osifuye (Nigeria) - Michael Parekowhai (New Zealand) - Bul-ddong Park (Korea) - Daniel Pflumm (Switzerland) - Marjetica Potrc (Slovenia) - Marc Quinn (UK) - Annie Ratti (Italy) - Kelly Richardson (Canada) - Thomas Ruff (Germany) - Edward Ruscha (US) - SAA (Site and Artists) (Korea) - Jim Sanborn (US) - Tisna Sanjaya (Indonesia) - Raquel Schwartz (Bolivia) - Leonid Sokov (Russia) - Jennifer Steinkamp (US) - Sun Xiaofeng (China) - Sun Yuan & Peng Yu (China) - Nguyen Minh Thanh (Vietnam) - The Kingpins (Australia) - Momoyo Torimitsu (Japan) - Yue Min Jun (China). 237 artists from 41 countries participated across all of the projects under the 5th Gwangju Biennale.
Fever Variations: The 6th Gwangju Biennale (8th September to 11th November 2006) 
The sixth Gwangju Biennale drew its theme from the word "Fever", which denotes passion and enthusiasm, and in particular the energy for change in Asia and the way in which Asia's power, dynamism and cultural abundance is being disseminated across the world.
The Artistic Director was Kim Hong-hee, Wu Hung was Chief Curator of The First Chapter and Kim Sang-yun was the Chief Programmer of The Third Sector.
On the Road/Position Papers/Insertions: The 7th Gwangju Biennale (5th Sept to 9th Nov 2008) 
The seventh Gwangju Biennale's programme was divided into three main strands. "On the Road" was a collection of traveling exhibitions that were produced elsewhere in 2006/2007; "Position Papers" involved curators in dialogue; and "Insertions" featured works and events specially commissioned for the biennale. The aim of the 7th Gwangju Biennale was not simply to make an exhibition about exhibitions or to debate the principles of curatorial culture, but rather to explore exhibitions as fundamental expressions of cultural and intellectual practice.
Artists included: Bani Abidi, Bingyi Huang, David Adjaye, Tania Bruguera & Arte Conducta, Allora & Calzadilla, Mariana Bunimov, Lara Almarcegui, Gerard Byrne, Area Park, Byron Kim, Stefano Arienti, Chen Shaoxiong, Kaoru Arima, Chen Qiulin, Sadie Benning, Bruce Conner, Huma Bhabha, Thomas Demand, Ursula Biemann, Atul Dodiya, Donghee Koo, Hans Haacke, Lili Dujourie, Haejun Jo, Felipe Dulzaides & Robert Gottardi, Lothar Hempel, Eunji Cho, Jan Henle, Rainer Werner Fassbinder, HwaYeon Nam, Daniel Faust, Chi Young Hwang, Daniel Faust, Iman Issa, Nina Fischer & Maroan El Sani, Peter Friedl; Choi IY; Jewyo Rhii, Gao Shiqiang, Jina Park, Tamar Guimaraes, Jooyeon Park, Shilpa Gupta, Isaac Julien, Hassan Khan, Sonia Khurana, Daniel Medina, Abdoulaye Konate, Luis Molina Pantin, David Lamelas, Matthew Monahan, Sherrie Levine, Movement, Contingency and Community, Glenn Ligon, MY-DA-DA, Reagan Louie, Ken Lum, Oil 21, Kerry James Marshall, Els Opsomer, Mona Marzouk, Jo Ractliffe, The Masked Portrait, Walid Sadek, Gordon Matta Clark, Mandla Reuter, Joachim Schoenfeldt, Fatou Kande Senghor, Jose Toirac, SeoYoung Chung, Taryn Simon, Uijae (Uijae Baek Lyen Heo), Dayanita Singh, Jacques Villegle, Praneet Soi, Alfred Wenemoser, Hiroshi Sugito, Lynette Yiadom Boakye, Catherine Sullivan, Bruce Yonemoto, Sunghwan Kim, Kohei Yoshiyuki, Sungyoon Yang, Zarina Hashmi, Taehun Kang, Dolores Zinny & Juan Maidagan, Koki Tanaka and John Zurier
10,000 LIVES: The 8th Gwangju Biennale (3rd September to 7th November 2010) 
Artistic Director: Massimiliano Gioni
Titled "10,000 Lives", the 8th Gwangju Biennale in 2010 developed as a sprawling investigation of the relationships that bind people to images and images to people. With works by more than 100 artists, realized between 1901 and 2010, as well as several new commissions, the exhibition was configured as a temporary museum in which both artworks and cultural artifacts are brought together to compose an idiosyncratic catalogue of figures and icons, faces and masks, idols and dolls.
Encompassing a diverse range of media, with a particular emphasis on portraiture, the exhibition engaged our obsession with images, and our need to create substitutes, effigies, avatars and stands-in for ourselves and our loved ones.
The exhibition title was drawn from Maninbo (10,000 Lives), a thirty-volume epic poem conceived by Korean author Ko Un while imprisoned in 1980 for his participation in the South Korean democratic movement. Held in solitary confinement, as a means to preserve his sanity, Ko envisioned a poem which described every single person he had met throughout his life, including historical figures and fictional characters encountered in literature. Upon his release he began writing the 3,800 poems that compose Maninbo (10,000 Lives), a magnum opus that reads as a personal encyclopedia of humanity.
Unfolding as a family album, the Eighth Gwangju Biennale looked at images as sites of affection and means of survival. The exhibition also examined how images are fabricated, circulated, stolen and exchanged - interrogating their power, while trying to capture their many lives. 
Participating artists included: Pawel Althamer -- Carl Andre -- Art Orienté Objet (Laval-Jeantet & Mangin) -- Anna Artaker -- Tauba Auerbach -- Morton Bartlett -- Thomas Bayrle -- Hans Bellmer -- E.J. Bellocq -- Nayland Blake -- Jonathan Borofsky -- Irina Botea -- Kerstin Brätsch -- Glenn Brown -- James Lee Byars -- Duncan Campbell -- James Castle -- Maurizio Cattelan -- Jacques Charlier -- Hyejeong Cho -- Byungsoo Choi -- Kwang-Ho Choi -- Anne Collier -- Roberto Cuoghi -- Keren Cytter -- John de Andrea -- Berlinde De Bruyckere -- Andre de Dienes -- Philip-Lorca diCorcia -- Mike Disfarmer -- Harold Edgerton -- Walker Evans -- Eye Glass Shop -- Harun Farocki -- Jean Fautrier -- Hans-Peter Feldmann -- Fischli and Weiss -- Lee Friedlander -- Katharina Fritsch -- Aurélien Froment -- Paul Fusco -- Cyprien Gaillard -- Rupprecht Geiger -- Franz Gertsch -- Hermann Glöckner -- Jean-Luc Godard -- Gu Dexin -- Guo Fengyi -- João Maria Gusmão and Pedro Paiva -- Yang-ah Ham -- Duane Hanson -- Ydessa Hendeles -- Thomas Hirschhorn -- Tom Holert -- Arnould Holleman -- Carsten Höller -- Roni Horn -- Tehching Hsieh -- Huang Yong Ping -- Heungsoon Im -- Sanja Ivekovic -- Jikken Kobo/Experimental Workshop (Shozo Kitadai, Kiyoji Otsuji, Katsuhiro Yamaguchi) -- Yasmin Kabir -- Kan Xuan -- Bongkyu Kang -- Jacob Kassay -- Leandro Katz -- Mike Kelley -- Edward and Nancy Reddin Kienholz -- Hanyong Kim -- Sanggil Kim -- Konrad Klapheck -- Alice Kok -- Kodku Dolls from the collection of Ock Rang Kim -- Jeff Koons -- Tetsumi Kudo -- Emma Kunz -- Maria Lassnig -- Mark Leckey -- Jung Lee -- Lee Seung-taek -- Sherrie Levine -- Namjin Lim -- Herbert List -- Liu Wei -- Liu Zheng -- Paul McCarthy -- Gustav Metzger -- John Miller -- Rabih Mroué -- Matt Mullican -- Namhan Photo Studio -- Bruce Nauman -- Yoon Oh -- Shinro Ohtake -- Henrik Olesen -- Overplus Project (Sun-ho Kang, Yong-jin Kim, Sung-wan Park, Da-un Jung) -- Taekyu Park -- Eliot Porter -- Seth Price -- Thom Puckey -- Bridget Riley -- Peter Roehr -- Dieter Roth -- Ataru Sato -- Karl Schenker -- Jean-Frédéric Schnyder -- Tino Sehgal -- Paul Sharits -- Cindy Sherman -- Laurie Simmons -- Hito Steyerl -- Sturtevant -- Paul Thek -- Ryan Trecartin -- Tuol Sleng Prison Photographs -- Useful Photography -- Franco Vaccari -- Stan VanDerBeek -- Danh Vo -- Andy Warhol -- Andro Wekua -- Christopher Williams -- Ming Wong -- Wu Wenguang -- Katsuhiro Yamaguchi -- Haegue Yang -- Ye Jinglu (photo album discovered by Tong Bingxue) -- Sergey Zarva -- Zhang Enli -- Zhao Shutong, Wang Guanyi and the Rent Collection Courtyard Collective -- Zhou Xiahou -- Jakub Ziolkowski -- Artur Zmijewski
ROUNDTABLE: The 9th Gwangju Biennale (7th September to 11th November 2012) 
ROUNDTABLE: the 9th Gwangju Biennale was described as an open-ended series of collaborations curated by a team of six Co-Artistic Directors - Nancy Adajania, Wassan Al-Khudhairi, Mami Kataoka, Sunjung Kim, Carol Yinghua Lu, and Alia Swastika. ROUNDTABLE invited viewers to consider diverse forms of collectives within historic and contemporary contexts, the tension between belonging and anonymity, and the affects that temporality, spatiality and mobility have on the individual and the collective.
ROUNDTABLE was expressed through six interrelated sub-themes: Logging In and Out of Collectivity | Re-visiting History | Transient Encounters | Intimacy, Autonomy and Anonymity | Back to the Individual Experience | Impact of Mobility on Space and Time.
Conceived of as an evolving project, ROUNDTABLE included 43 new commissions and 15 residencies, as well as a series of Workstations and E-Journals in the build up to and during the main exhibition, aimed at engaging with a global audience. Through this multiplicity of approaches, ROUNDTABLE acknowledged the impossibility of unconditional collaboration and challenged viewers to consider a non-hierarchical exchange towards global cultural production. Over 92 artists, artist groups, and temporary collectives from 44 countries participated in the exhibition, which ran from September 7th to November 11th, 2012.
Gwangju Biennale 2012 participating artists included:
A Gentil Carioca [Botner e Pedro + Fabiano Gonper] (Brazil) -- Abraham Cruzvillegas (Mexico) -- Adam Broomberg + Oliver Chanarin (UK/ South Africa) -- Agung Kurniawan (Indonesia) -- Ahn Kyuchul (South Korea) -- Aki Sasamoto (Japan/ USA) -- Ala Younis (Palestine/ Jordan) -- Allan Kaprow (USA) -- Allan Sekula + Noel Burch (USA) -- Ana Husman (Croatia) -- Andy Hope 1930 (Germany) -- Anri Sala (Albania/ Germany) -- Benjamin Armstrong (Australia) -- Bibimbbap [Sang-hwa Park, Han-byul Jang, Mae-lee Lee, Han-yeol Kim, Un Kang] (South Korea) -- Boris Groys (Germany) -- CAMP (India) -- Cho Hyun-Tack (South Korea) -- Choi Mi-Yeon (South Korea) -- Chosil Kil (South Korea) -- Chris Marker (France) -- Chto delat? / What is to be done? (Russia) -- Craig Walsh + Hiromi Tango (Australia/ Japan) -- Dane Mitchell (New Zealand) -- Darinka Pop-Mitic (Serbia) -- Delaine Le Bas (UK) -- Dick Verdult (Netherlands) -- Do-Ho Suh (South Korea) -- Fayçal Baghriche (Algeria) -- Fouad Elkoury (France/ Lebanon) -- Kasmalieva & Djumaliev + ArtEast School for Contemporary Art, Bishkek (Kyrgyzstan) -- Han Dong (China) -- Haroon Mirza (UK) -- James Cahill (USA) -- Jangarh Singh Shyam (India) -- Jenny Holzer (USA) -- Jeong-lok LEE (South Korea) -- Jihae Hwang (South Korea) -- Joana Hadjithomas + Khalil Joreige (Lebanon) -- Josef Dabernig (Austria) -- Julia Dault (Canada/ USA) -- Julieta Aranda + Anton Vidokle (Mexico/ Russia) -- Jun Yang (China/ Austria) -- Jung Yoonsuk (South Korea) -- Juyeon Kim (South Korea) -- Kelly Schacht (Belgium) -- Kim Beom (South Korea) -- Kimsooja (South Korea) -- Laurent Grasso (France) -- Li Fuchun (China) -- Li Ran (China) -- Lu Yue (China) -- Magnus Bärtås (Sweden) -- Maha Maamoun (Egypt) -- Maki Toshima (Japan) -- Malak Helmy (Egypt) -- Mark Bradford (USA) -- Michael Joo (USA) -- Mônica Nador (Brazil) -- MOON Kyungwon + JEON Joonho (South Korea) -- Motoyuki Shitamichi (Japan) -- Nástio Mosquito (Angola) -- NOH Suntag (South Korea) -- Pages (Iran) -- Pedro Reyes (Mexico) -- Poklong Anading (Philippines) -- Porntaweesak Rimsakul (Thailand) -- Rasheed Araeen (UK) -- Rim Dong Sik (South Korea) -- Rirkrit Tiravanija (Thailand) -- Royce NG (Hong Kong/ Australia) in collaboration with Zebadish Arrington, SuhuuGoh + Soichiro Mitsuya (USA/ South Korea/ Japan) -- Sara Nuytemans (Belgium) -- Scott Eady (New Zealand) -- Šejla Kamerić (Bosnia-Herzegovina) -- Sheba Chhachhi (India) -- Shuruq Harb (Palestine) -- Simon Fujiwara (UK) -- Slavs and Tatars (Morocco/ Lebanon/ Romania/ France) -- Sophia Al Maria (Qatar) -- Tintin Wulia (Indonesia) -- Tobias Rehberger (Germany) -- Tu Wei-Cheng (Taiwan) -- U Sunok (South Korea) -- Varda Caivano (Argentina) -- Vertical Submarine (Singapore) -- Wael Shawky (Egypt) – West-Eastern Divan (orchestra) (Israel/ Palestine/ Arab World) -- Wolfgang Laib (Germany) -- Wu Tsang (USA) -- Xijing Men [Chen Shaoxiong, Gimhongsok, Tsuyoshi Ozawa] (China/South Korea/ Japan) -- xurban_collective [Guven Incirlioglu + Hakan Topal] (Turkey) -- Yerbossyn Meldibekov (Kazakhstan)
- See e-flux announcement of joint artistic directors of 9th Gwangju Biennale, 2012
- "Universes in Universe : Interview with Yongwoo Lee about the 1st Gwangju Biennale".
- "Gwangju Biennale 2006". The Gwangju Biennale Foundation. 2006. Retrieved 2008-05-30.
- Gwangju Biennale Foundation. "재단법인 광주비엔날레". Retrieved 2008-05-30.
- Ken Pratt (May 2008). "So good... It can't happen every year". Wound Magazine (London) 1 (3): 238. ISSN 1755-800X.
- Gwangju Biennale Foundation. "Artists". Retrieved 2008-05-30.
- "10000 Lives: The 8th Gwangju Biennale".
- McCurry, Justin. "A grand canvas for Gwangju's role in dawn of South Korean democracy". The Guardian.
- Maitra, Romain. "A Roundtable Gathering". The Hindu.
- Vogel, Sabine. "Gwangju Biennale: Der Verlust der Ordnung". Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung.
- McCurry, Justin. "Gwangju Biennale honours sacrifice that brought democracy to South Korea". The Guardian.
- Somers Cocks, Anna. "A little too much democracy at Gwangju Biennale". The Art Newspaper.