Soo-Young Leam

PhD student

Thesis: Lee Seung-Taek: Reconfiguring avant-garde art in post-war Korea

Supervised by Prof. Sarah Wilson

Funded by

  • 2014-2015: Stavros N Niarchos Foundation
  • 2009 -2012: Cambridge Overseas Trust Scholarship

This project offers an alternative narrative to the established history of Korean avant-garde art through the exploration of the experimental works and writings of Lee Seung-Taek from the 1950s to the present day. Despite the growing public and scholarly interest in the artist, who has been working in relative isolation at the periphery of mainstream art movements for more than six decades, existing scholarship on his works remain dispersed and limited. Best known for his notions of ‘anti-concept’ and ‘non-sculpture,’ which question the problems of free-standing, three-dimensional forms and their materiality, his radical artistic practices are primarily associated with polyvocal aesthetic experiments initiated during the 1960s and 1970s. With access to the artist’s personal storage and collection of archival documents, this research will be the first comprehensive investigation about the underlining avant-garde strategies, web of associations, recurring themes and ideas found in Lee’s oeuvre. My study will contribute to the critical understanding of the ways in which Lee’s artistic responses to (and reactions against) shifting socio-political and cultural conditions developed and diverged, reflecting changing artistic approaches in a broader cultural community.


  • 2014 – present: Ph.D. History of Art, Courtauld Institute of Art,
  • 2012-2013: M.A. in History of Art, Courtauld Institute of Art
  • B.A. Hons. in History of Art, University of Cambridge

Research interests

  • Identity politics
  • East Asian historiography
  • Postcolonial studies
  • Memory and amnesia


  • Lecturer, Ewha Woman’s University Art in London Programme, London, summer 2013-14
  • Lecturer, Yonsei University Art in London Programme, London, summer 2013
  • Volunteer lecturer, Fitzwilliam Museum Outreach Programme, Cambridge, 2012-13

Conference papers and lectures

  • ‘Modern and Contemporary art in Korea’, Sotheby’s Institute of Art, London, May 205
  • ‘Song as a monument’: Sanja Ivekovic’s On the Barricades and politics of memorialization’, graduate conference on ‘Memory, Moment, Mobility in East Asia’, University of Southern California, CA, April 2015
  • ‘Nordic Beach by Wyndham Lewis’, Conservation and Art Historical Analysis: Works from the Courtauld Gallery Symposium, Research Forum, London, March 2013