Whitworth appoints Sook-Kyung Lee as director - Museums Association

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Whitworth appoints Sook-Kyung Lee as director

Lee to join Manchester gallery from Tate Modern
Leadership Moves
Sook-Kyung Lee
Sook-Kyung Lee Photo courtesy the Gwangju Biennale Foundation

The Whitworth, part of the University of Manchester, has appointed Sook-Kyung Lee as its new director.

Lee joins the Whitworth from London’s Tate Modern, where she is a senior curator of international art. Since 2019 she has led Hyundai Tate Research Centre: Transnational, a major research initiative in partnership with Hyundai Motor, exploring new perspectives on global art histories. In 2021 she was also appointed artistic director of South Korea’s 14th Gwangju Biennale, which opened in April 2023.

During her tenure at Tate Modern, Lee curated several exhibitions and displays including Richard Bell: Embassy (2023), A Year in Art: Australia 1992 (2021-23), and Nam June Paik (2019-20), which went on to tour to Europe, USA and Asia.

She also played a role in shaping Tate's international art collection strategy by leading initiatives such as the Asia Pacific Acquisitions Committee and the co-acquisition programme with the Museum of Contemporary Art, Australia.

Lee will take up the role at the Whitworth in August 2023 and will become honorary professor of transcultural curating at the university.

Lee said: “It is a huge honour for me to take up the role of director at the Whitworth, one of the most innovative and audience-focused art institutions in the UK and internationally. I have admired the Whitworth's commitment to work with local communities and to use art for positive social change. I would like to further develop the gallery in its artistic rigour and social impacts and to widen its global connections, along with the gallery's dedicated staff and the University of Manchester.”

The former director of the Whitworth and Manchester Art Gallery, Alistair Hudson, stepped down at the end of 2022. The university has since restructured the shared directorship role into two separate posts, with a senior creative lead at Manchester Art Gallery.

In 2021, the Whitworth was at the centre of a free speech controversy after Hudson was reportedly put under pressure to resign after complaints over a Palestine solidarity statement that was published in an exhibition by the architectural group Forensic Architecture. The university denied the reports.

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