Lee Bul (Korean: 이불, born in Yeongju, Gyeongsangbuk-do, South Korea in 1964) is a contemporary sculpture and installation artist who appeared on the art scene in the late 1980s. Her work questions patriarchal authority and the marginalization of women by revealing ideologies that permeate our cultural and political spheres.[1]

Lee Bul
Oeuvre de Lee Bul (Kiasma, Kelsinki) (2755459179).jpg
Mon Grand Recit: Weep into Stones (2005)
EducationHongik University

These themes take form in cold, mechanical sculptures and installations that reflect the ideals of a futuristic society.[2] She has focused on shaping oppression of women, commercialization of sex, etc. that are intensified in a male-dominated society through various performances and objects. Since her introduction to the world of art, she has caught the eyes of the world of art all around the world with various ambitious artworks. She has been described as the most famous artist in South Korea.[3]

Lee Bul presented an innovative performance using her own body and a three-dimensional textile artwork. Also, in an invitational exhibition of MoMA (The Museum of Modern Art) in the United States, she brought even the sense of rotten smell in process of time to the exhibition by using raw fish.[4]


Bul was born January 25, 1964 in Yeongju, Gyeongsangbuk-do, South Korea.[5][6] She studied sculpture at Hongik University in Seoul, graduating in 1987.[7][8]


Most of Bul's artworks are installation pieces that involve the audience being placed into the work.[9]

I Need You (Monument)Edit

From 1996 and 1999, Lee completed three mixed media installations that incorporate photographs of the artist with large scale inflatable forms. One of these installations, entitled I Need You (Monument) (1996), features a swelling, phallic object with a photograph of an orientalized and lingerie-clad Lee on the front. Beneath the mass lies an array of pedals for viewers to further aerate the object. Notable is Lee's juxtaposition of title and medium, which contrasts the vulnerability of inflatables with hegemonic ideas of what a monument is made of. Furthermore, her use of pedals draws attention to society's contribution to traditional ideals.[10]

Cyborg sculpturesEdit

Lee's series of cyborg sculptures created in 1997-2011 became well-known.[11] The series started with Cyborg Red and Cyborg Blue in 1997–98. These works, as well as those that appear later in the series, feature decapitated anthropomorphic forms that are often missing an arm, leg, or both. Although the bodies read as female due to their hourglass shape, the idea of a cyborg transcends distinctions such as gender, race, and class. The cords attached to the figures appear to signify recovery and rebuilding. Rather than damage done intentionally to the piece such as Egyptian Sphinx, these sculptures convey the message that figures can be created the way they would like to be regardless of gender or background.[12] The artist has stated that the cyborg is a trope for "our fear and fascination with the uncategorizable, the uncanny."[13]


Lee's work appears to refer to some of the brutality of the Korean government up through 1987, with reference to torture.[3]


Lee Bul has had solo exhibitions worldwide including Live Forever which toured the New Museum of Contemporary Art in New York and The Power Plant in Toronto. She was selected as a finalist for the 1998 Hugo Boss Prize by the Guggenheim Museum, New York.

Other museums that have presented exhibitions of her work include Fondation Cartier, Paris;[14] Domus Artium, Salamanca; Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney; Japan Foundation, Tokyo; MAC, Musée d'Art Contemporain, Marseille; Le Consortium;[15] Fabric Workshop and Museum, Philadelphia;[16] Kunsthalle Bern, Switzerland; and the Museum of Modern Art, New York.[17]

In March 2010, the Hara Museum ARC unveiled a permanent installation by Lee Bul entitled A Fragmentary Anatomy of Every Setting Sun. In February 2012, Tokyo's Mori Art Museum mounted a mid-career survey exhibition, the artist's largest exhibition to date.[18]

The Southbank Centres newly reopened Hayward Gallery hosted a survey of Lee's artists work beginning at the end of May 2018, her first in London; which explores the artist’s extensive investigation into the body and its relationship to architectural space. Occupying the entire gallery, this exhibition includes documentation of early performances, sculptural works from the iconic Monster, Cyborg and Anagram series and recent immersive installations, as well as a selection of the artist’s studio drawings. [19][20]

Recognition and awardsEdit


  1. ^ Whitney Chadwick, Women, Art, and Society, Thames & Hudson, p. 453, 2007
  2. ^ Wenny, Teow. "Lee Bul". Art Review. Retrieved 8 March 2015.
  3. ^ a b Laura Cumming. Lee Bul: Crashing review – beauty with menace. The Guardian. 3 June 2018.
  4. ^ "이불" (in Korean). Naver Encyclopedia <Dictionary of current events and general knowledge>. Retrieved 2015-11-10.
  5. ^ Joan M. Marter (2011). The Grove Encyclopedia of American Art. Oxford University Press. pp. 2–. ISBN 978-0-19-533579-8.
  6. ^ Untitled, by Lee Bul at National Gallery of Victoria online
  7. ^ Lee Bul, Grove Art Online / Oxford Art Online, Oxford University Press 2019. https://doi.org/10.1093/gao/9781884446054.article.T097929
  8. ^ Phaidon Editors (2019). Great women artists. Phaidon Press. p. 236. ISBN 0714878774.
  9. ^ Grazia Quaroni, Lee Bul, On Every New Shadow, Fondation Cartier pour l'art contemporain, Thames & Hudson, p. 121, 2007
  10. ^ Amy, Michael. "Lee Bul: Phantasmic Morphologies". Lehmann Maupin. Retrieved 8 March 2015.
  11. ^ Masters, H.G. "Wayward Tangents: Lee Bul". Art Asia Pacific. Retrieved 8 March 2015.
  12. ^ Murray, Soraya (May 2008). "Cybernated Aesthetics: Lee Bul and the Body Transfigured". PAJ: A Journal of Performance and Art. 30 (2): 39. JSTOR 30133339.
  13. ^ National Gallery of Victoria. "world rush_4 artists: Lee Bul". Retrieved 8 March 2015.
  14. ^ Fondation Cartier, Paris
  15. ^ Le Consortium
  16. ^ Fabric Workshop and Museum, Philadelphia
  17. ^ Museum of Modern Art, New York
  18. ^ the Mori Art Museum, Tokyo
  19. ^ https://www.southbankcentre.co.uk/whats-on/exhibitions/hayward-gallery-art/lee-bul-wayward-wander
  20. ^ Lee Bul: beauty and horror, Southbank Centre
  21. ^ Guggenheim Museum Soho. The Hugo Boss Prize, 1998 : [Douglas Gordon, Huang Yong Ping, William Kentridge, Lee Bul, Pililotti Rist, Lorna Simpson]. New York : Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation.
  22. ^ "FORMER WEST – 48th Venice Biennale". Retrieved 2018-04-06.
  23. ^ Elizabeth Ann Macgregor, Lee Bul, Museum of Contemporary Art Sydney, 2005
  24. ^ "제13회 수상자(The 13th prize winner)" (in Korean). Retrieved 2018-04-06.
  25. ^ "Gwangju Biennale" (in Korean). Retrieved 2018-04-06.
  26. ^ "이불 설치미술가, 문화예술공로훈장 수훈 (2016년 10월 7일)". La France en Corée - Ambassade de France à Séoul (in Korean). Retrieved 2018-04-06.
  27. ^ "Previous Laureates". The Ho-Am Foundation. 2019. Retrieved 19 August 2019.

External linksEdit