LELA started as Lantern of the East, an art movement initiated by four Asian artists, Lee Kye Song, Hideo Sakata, P. Khemraj, and Yoko Kamijyo, who became concerned about trends in the contemporary art world in the late 20th century.
These artists viewed the art scene as becoming increasingly dominated by commercial forces and tending towards a mono-cultural, Western-oriented bias. This perception was reinforced when the NYC Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1996 at their special exhibition of '20th century Great Artists' featured scant representation from Asia. The Lantern group believed that Eastern art, with a different sensibility derived from the intrinsic religious and cultural traditions of the Asian region, needed to become a more active force in the contemporary visual art scene and that in doing so, would be a driving force in shaping the world of contemporary visual art in the 21st century.
The Lantern of the East then became Lantern of the East - Los Angeles, or LELA, as the founders were motivated by the conviction that art can unite people in our troubled modern world across boundaries of race, faith, and national borders, helping all of us to reconnect with our fundamental spiritual essence and to find inner peace and happiness. In that spirit, the founders began, in 1996, and continue an annual international art festival to communicate the spirit of "Global Art Community" to the far and remote corners of the world.
The movement these Asian artists started became rooted in many locations on a global level, from the Korean city of Pyong Taek and their hosting LELA International Art Festival to APEX in L.A., which marked the 10th anniversary of the LELA by hosting an International Art Festival being it's largest and most ambitious project in its history.
It presented not only the spirit of Eastern art to Westerners but also introduced the sensibility of Central and Latin American art. The founders of LELA hope that more cities in the world like Pyong Taek and Los Angeles join this movement and provide spaces to enjoy and appreciate all that represent the diversity and intrinsic beauty of our global artist community.