Nikki S. Lee

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Nikki S. Lee
KoreAm March 2007 cover.jpg
On the March 2007 cover of KoreAm
Born 1970 (age 47–48)
South Korea
Nationality Korean
Known for Photography
Awards The Louis Comfort Tiffany Foundation Award
Korean name
Hangul 승희[1]
Revised Romanization Yi Seunghui
McCune–Reischauer Yi Sǔnghui

Nikki Seung-hee Lee (born 1970) is a Korean artist and filmmaker formerly based in New York City, now living and working in Seoul.


After earning a Bachelor of Fine Arts at Chung-Ang University in South Korea in 1993, she moved to New York City in 1994 to attend the Fashion Institute of Technology. She earned her Master of Arts in photography at New York University in 1998.[2]


Projects, 1997–2001[edit]

Lee's most noted work, Projects (1997–2001), begun while still in school, depicts her in snapshot photographs in which she poses with drag queens, punks, swing dancers, senior citizens, Latinos, hip-hop musicians and fans, skateboarders, lesbians, young urban professionals, and Korean schoolgirls. She immerses herself into each American subculture and created an identity that is an extension of herself. With a simple point-and-shoot camera, she asked the selected group or passerby to record her.[3] Lee conceives of her work as less about creating beautiful pictures, and more about investigating notions of identity and the uses of vernacular photography.[4] The project was one of her graduation requirements.[5]

With Projects, a series of photos that brought her to fame after exhibiting at art exhibitions and fairs in 1998, Lee transformed herself into a "mix" of clothing, makeup and makeup. hairstyles, dyeing salon, multicolor contact lenses, dance exercises ..., to penetrate completely different environments: tourists, girls, retirees, etc ... and posed poses with their new acquaintances.[6]

In 1999 Lee's first solo exhibition took place at Leslie Tonkonow Artworks + Projects, New York.


A more recent series by Lee, entitled Parts (2002–2005) uses images of Lee posing in different settings with a male partner, cropped to make it impossible to directly see who she is with,[7][8] leaving only a trace, such as an arm or a foot. This picture sets the focus completely on Lee, which suggests that her identity also changes after each emotional relationship. Lee said "When I first met, everyone said, 'Oh, you are different from what I think.'

In her most recent project, an hour-long film, Lee takes full advantage of that embarrassment. In 2006 Lee released the film, A.K.A. Nikki S. Lee. The project, described as a "conceptual documentary," alternates segments presenting Lee as two distinct personalities, a reserved academic and an outgoing socialite. It had its premiere at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, October 5–7, 2006.[9] The film appears to be a true Nikki documentary, a young woman who is serious about making a second documentary about herself. Nikki No. 2, an impulsive personality, flaunts in the photo. But as Lee explained in an interview: "Nikki number one should be Nikki, and Nikki number two should be fake. But both are Nikki fake."[10]

Lee has had solo exhibitions of her work at international institutions including the Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston, the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco, the Museum of Contemporary Photography[11] in Chicago, the Cleveland Museum of Art and the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art, Kansas City.[citation needed] Her works are in the collections of museums, including the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, D.C.; the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; the Milwaukee Art Museum; the Los Angeles County Museum of Art; the Fukuoka Asian Art Museum in Fukuoka, Japan; and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York.[citation needed]


  1. ^ Yi Nam-hui (July 2011), "뉴욕이 주목한 아티스트 니키 리 [Noted New York artist Nikki Lee]", The Dong-A Ilbo (622), pp. 310–315, retrieved 2011-09-29 
  2. ^ Amanda Allison (2009), ""Identity in Flux": Exploring the Work of Nikki S. Lee", Art Education (62), pp. 25–31 
  3. ^ "Nikki S. Lee". National Museum of Women in the Arts. Retrieved 23 April 2014. 
  4. ^ Smith, Cherise (2011). Enacting Others : Politics of Identity in Eleanor Antin, Nikki S. Lee, Adrian Piper, and Anna Deavere Smith. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. p. 205. 
  5. ^ Lee, Phil (January 2008), ""Indefinite "Nikkis" in a World of Hyperreality: An Interview with Nikki S. Lee."", Chicago Art Journal, 18: 76–93 
  6. ^ "Nikki S. Lee's "Projects"—And the Ongoing Circulation of Blackface, Brownface in "Art"". Retrieved 2018-05-11. 
  7. ^ Miller, J. Macneill (September 2007), "The Impersonal Album: Chronicling Life in the Digital Age.", Afterimage, 35 (2): 9–12 
  8. ^ "Fluid Identities: The "Parts" and "Projects" of Nikki Lee". Broad Strokes: The National Museum of Women in the Arts' Blog. 1 November 2013. Retrieved 2018-05-11. 
  9. ^ Lee, Phil (January 2008), ""Indefinite "Nikkis" in a World of Hyperreality: An Interview with Nikki S. Lee."", Chicago Art Journal, 18: 76–93 
  10. ^ University of Michigan (19 August 2009), Nikki S. Lee - Parts and Projects – via YouTube 
  11. ^ Rosenfeld, Catherine (December 2001), "Nikki S. Lee: The Museum of Contemporary Photography, Columbia College, Chicago", New Art Examiner, 29 (2): 91–92 
  • "Nikki S. Lee". International Center of Photography. 2 March 2016. Retrieved 2018-05-11. 

External links[edit]