Jewyo Rhii Awarded 2019 Korea Artist Prize
By Ophelia Lai
Installation, performance, and video artist Jewyo Rhii was announced winner of the 2019 Korea Artist Prize on December 3. In its eighth edition, the Prize is jointly conferred by the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Korea (MMCA) and the SBS Culture Foundation.
Born in 1971, Rhii earned a BFA in 1995 at the College of Art and Design of Ewha Womans University in her native Seoul, before pursuing Master’s degrees in fine art at the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, and the Chelsea College of Art in London. Rhii is best known for her sculptural installations, which explore notions of temporal passage, utility, and obsolescence indexed in objects and material environments. From 2012 to 2013, she was the subject of the travelling solo survey “Walls to Talk To,” staged at Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven; the Museum für Moderne Kunst, Frankfurt; and Galerie Ursula Walbröl, Düsseldorf. In 2014, the Queens Museum in New York mounted Rhii’s solo exhibition “Commonly Newcomer,” which reflected on the artist’s experience of moving to the borough through a sprawling installation composed of objects alluding to the local landscape.
Rhii was awarded the Prize for Love Your Depot (2019), a project based on an experimental work and storage center, Team Depot, for artists who lack sufficient space—a scenario that draws on her own experience of struggling to secure storage space during frequent moves between cities. Her presentation at the Korea Artists Prize exhibition at MMCA Seoul transformed a gallery into a storage area filled with pallets, shelving units, and crates, as well as artworks by herself and other artists. Another section of her display featured a makeshift studio with a screen showing documentary footage from a Team Depot workshop-meets-performance.
The jury consisted of MMCA director Youn Bummo; his predecessor at MMCA, Bartomeu Marí; Busan Museum of Art director Ki Hyekyung; Dirk Snauwaert, director of Wiels Contemporary Art Centre, Brussels; and Hiromi Kurosawa, chief curator at the 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, Kanazawa.
Youn praised Rhii for her “keen, audacious attempts to address contemporary issues through a new paradigm of art.”
Snauwert, who chaired the panel, added: “In this age of overproduction, Rhii aptly raises fundamental questions on the production, storage, and archiving of artworks.”
The three other nominees for the Prize were video artist Ayoung Kim, researcher and installation artist Hyesoo Park, and textile and performance artist Young In Hong. Their works are on view at the Korea Artists Prize exhibition until March 1, 2020.
Ophelia Lai is ArtAsiaPacific’s associate editor.
To read more of ArtAsiaPacific’s articles, visit our Digital Library.