The Busan Biennale is a biannual international contemporary art show that integrated three different art events held in the city in 1998: the Busan Youth Biennale, the first biennale of Korea that was voluntarily organized by local artists in 1981; the Sea Art Festival, an environmental art festival launched in 1987 with the sea serving as a backdrop; and the Busan International Outdoor Sculpture Symposium that was first held in 1991. The biennale was previously called the Pusan International Contemporary Art Festival (PICAF) before it launched.
The biennale has its own unique attribute in that it was formed not out of any political logic or need but rather the pure force of local Busan artists’ will and their voluntary participation. Even to this day their interest in Busan's culture and its experimental nature has been the key foundation for shaping the biennale’s identity.
This biennale is the only one like it in the world that was established through an integration of three types of art events such as a Contemporary Art Exhibition, Sculpture Symposium, and Sea Art Festival. The Sculpture Symposium in particular was deemed to be a successful public art event, the results of which were installed throughout the city and dedicated to revitalizing cultural communication with citizens.The networks formed through the event have assumed a crucial role in introducing and expanding domestic art overseas and leading the development of local culture for globalized cultural communication. Founded 38 years ago, the biennale aims to popularize contemporary art and achieve art in everyday life by providing a platform for interchanging experimental contemporary art.
The 2002's Contemporary Art Exhibition was held at Busan Museum of Modern Art and Olympic Park for 69 days from September 15 to November 22. The exhibition had ‘Urban, Urbanity’as its theme and attempted to make it as public-friendly as possible. As a result of the effort, it came to change the public's perception that contemporary art resides in an arcane world. The total of 100,000 visitors came to see the exhibition. By displaying the contemporary artworks of good taste in spite of a small budget, the exhibition earned the compliment of ‘small yet substantial’ biennale from the art World.
'Urban, Urbanity' is the theme of the Contemporary Art illuminate 'here&now' of city of Busan and to support the main theme of the Biennale 2002, 'Culture Meets Culture.' City is a place where various ways of life called 'culture' meet and coexist. Appearance of the industrial society, perpetual change of the cityscape and the mode of life were a main cause to appearance have functioned as a great momentum to introduce new concepts and forms to art. Having witnessed the urban expansion and the omnipresent urbanity of contemporary life along with consumer culture and mass-produced images, artists are interested in their immediate surroundings more than any other time in the past. By getting materials from city and everyday life, they try to be inserted in everybody's reality beyond the boundary between art and life. Their interest in the urban milieu and common life and creation of a new reality invite us to see our daily life from different perspectives. To discover and understand the city of Busan better, the Contemporary Art Exhibition invited artists with various cultural backgrounds. It will be a chance to compare and reflect on matters which big cities like Busan have in common, while to reexamine our imagination about city.
The 2002's Sea Art Festival took place at Haeundae Beach from September 30 to October 27. The festival was a great success, drawing 670,000 visitors. Especially, as the quality of artworks that entered the Competition Works were greatly improved and the size of the works grew larger, the festival came to be known as a fitting event highlighting the cultural image of the marine capital Busan. The 80% of the visitors opined that this festival should be specialized for the city Busan.
The 2002's Busan Sculpture Project was held at Asiad Sculpture Plaza and the outdoor sculpture park of Olympic Park from September 15 to November 22. No less than 970,000 visitors came to see, making it a phenomenal success. After the completion of the event, the sculptures were transported to and reinstalled at Seo-gu Amnam Sculpture Park and Asiad Sculpture Plaza, providing the Busan citizens with cultural resting areas. The Asiad Sculpture Plaza, in particular, set a new precedent as a sculpture park, initiating benchmarking attempts from other cities.