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MMCA brings back revamped Korea Artist Prize

By Park Yuna

Published : April 22, 2023 - 11:20

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Kwon Byung-jun (MMCA) Kwon Byung-jun (MMCA)

The National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Korea has selected four finalists for the Korea Artist Prize 2023, following a short hiatus last year to make improvements to the 10-year-old annual award, which had fallen under growing criticism for its quality and low recognition.

The museum earlier this week announced four artists -- sound artist Kwon Byung-jun, Korean-Colombian artist Gala Porras-Kim, Lee Kang-seung whose work explores queer history, and interdisciplinary artist Jun So-jung -- as the award finalists.

Gala Porras-Kim (MMCA) Gala Porras-Kim (MMCA)

The museum’s Korea Artist Prize -- the only annual art award given by the state museum -- aims to support up-and-coming artists in collaboration with the SBS Foundation, which provides funding.

The museum announced it has increased the funds allocated to the artists to produce new works for the award exhibition from 40 million won ($30,218) to 50 million won. The museum will put on an exhibition of the finalists and select the winner of the prize.

Lee Kang-seung (MMCA) Lee Kang-seung (MMCA)

“We are still in talks with the foundation on how we can improve the overseas promotion program for the finalists. We will make an announcement as soon as the details are set,” an official from the state museum told The Korea Herald.

In the past, finalists were given the Korea Artist Prize Promotion Fund which provides up to 20 million won toward producing art for their overseas projects to be executed within four years. The discussion underway includes increasing the fund, according to the museum.

The museum said it will improve the contents of the exhibition by presenting each artist’s previous works along with the newly created pieces for the exhibition, which will help viewers better understand the artist’s career in greater depth.

Jun So-jung (MMCA) Jun So-jung (MMCA)

The winner selection process has been enhanced through artist workshops which will take place during the exhibition, with participation from the judges, art experts, critics and viewers.

After the workshops, six judges will select the final recipient of the prize. The judges include Aaron Cezar, founding director of the UK-based Delfina Foundation; Binna Choi, director of the Casco Art Institute (Utrecht); Michelle Kuo, a curator at the Museum of Modern Art in New York); Nav Haq, associate director of the Museum of Contemporary Art in Antwerp; and Yuka Uematsu, chief curator at the National Museum of Art Osaka.

The director of the MMCA is also a member of the panel of judges, but the position is currently vacant as Youn Bum-mo resigned from his post. The Korea Artist Prize 2023 exhibition will be held from Oct. 20 to March 14, 2024, at the MMCA, Seoul.

“A new director should be appointed by then, we hope,” an official from the museum said.

Last year, the former director vowed to improve the award saying, “We acknowledge the criticisms surrounding the award, and we will put forth efforts to better show the ‘Korea Artist Prize’ for the next 10 years.”