Lee Bul’s Work Catches Fire At London’s Hayward Gallery
By Tianhui Huang
The private view of South Korean artist Lee Bul’s solo exhibition at the Hayward Gallery in London, slated for the evening of May 29, was cancelled after one of the works spontaneously combusted less than two hours before the scheduled opening.
The work in question was later confirmed as Majestic Splendor (1991–2018), an installation comprising several sequined, decaying fish sealed in transparent bags. In 1997, New York’s Museum of Modern Art had removed Majestic Splendor from display due to its intense odor. Preservative chemicals were added to the work for its presentation at the Hayward Gallery to prevent the same mishap. However, the chemical agents used were most likely what led to the fire.
“Following expert advice regarding the materials used in Lee Bul's Majestic Splendor, we took the decision, along with the artist, to remove the artwork from the exhibition,” the gallery announced in a statement, adding that “during the de-installation, a small fire broke out and the fire service attended. Superficial damage was sustained in a confined section of Gallery One.” In an earlier report in The Art Newspaper, a spokesperson said that the fire “was quickly contained” and that “no one was hurt.”
The show is expected to reopen on June 1. The artist’s first major mid-career survey in London, showcasing more than 100 works by the artist from the 1980s to present, coincides with Hayward Gallery’s 50th anniversary this July, and runs to August 19, 2018.
Tianhui Huang is an editorial intern of ArtAsiaPacific.
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