As part of the Annual Guide to Galleries, Museums and Artists (A.i.A.’s August issue), we preview the 2014-15 season of museum exhibitions worldwide. In addition to offering their own top picks, our editors asked select artists, curators and collectors to identify the shows they are looking forward to. Here, curator Philip Tinari talks about Lee Mingwei.
“The Mori always does great shows, and they get huge audiences—‘Lee Mingwei and His Relations’ will be an event for Tokyo. I’m particularly excited about the show because Lee has never had a full-on retrospective. For me, he represents the gentler side of relational aesthetics: his work is super sensitive with a very clear set of ideas about how people can be transformed through interactions with each other. Lee is really good at setting up these types of semi-staged, semi-spontaneous situations.
“We just did a wonderful project with him at the Ullens Center for Contemporary Art called Sonic Blossom, which involves a trained vocal soloist lurking in the lobby who picks an audience member at random and asks if he can give the visitor a gift-the soloist singing Franz Schubert’s Lieder. This piece comes from a time when Lee was taking care of his mother after surgery and they listened to Schubert together. I first stumbled upon Sonic Blossom at the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art in Seoul. Lee created it for the museum’s opening show last November.
“The Mending Project is also included in the Mori show. For this one, you can bring in a piece of clothing that needs to be mended, and volunteers sit and sew the object while talking to people. All the spools of thread hang on the wall and remain connected to the mended object, so a soft sculpture emerges from this series of impromptu conversations.
“The number of moving human parts here is really impressive. And it’s especially interesting to have this show in Japan, where interactions between people are typically so stylized and formal.”
“Lee Mingwei and His Relations” will appear at the Mori Art Museum, Tokyo, Sept. 20, 2014-Jan. 4, 2015.
Philip Tinari is director of the Ullens Center for Contemporary Art, Beijing.