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  • Jan 22, 2021

Updates in a New Year: Friday News Roundup

View of Art Basel in Basel, in 2019. Courtesy Art Basel.

Several weeks into the new year, and 2021 has already witnessed a tide of changes, although other things appear to remain the same. While more pandemic-induced cancellations are inevitable, there is hope yet for better things to come. Here is a look at the updates from the last week. 

On January 21, Art Basel announced that due to ongoing travel restrictions and health concerns caused by Covid-19, the art fair has decided to delay its Swiss iteration from June to September 23–26, to be held at Messe Basel. Its 2021 Hong Kong fair, normally held during March, has already been rescheduled to May 21–23 last November. In 2020, after first delaying the 50th edition of its Basel event from June to September due to the pandemic, the live version was canceled altogether, and the fair's Online Viewing Rooms (OVR) was held instead from June 19–26.

Portraits of (left) SHIGA LIEKO and (right) TAKEUCHI KOTA. Courtesy Tokyo Arts and Space.

On January 18, the Tokyo government and Tokyo Arts and Space (TOKAS) announced photographer Shiga Lieko and multidisciplinary artist Takeuchi Kota as the winners of the third Tokyo Contemporary Art Award, which recognizes midcareer artists based in Japan. The award will support the artists’ work for the next two years, conferring each with a cash prize of JPY 3 million (USD 28,970) as well as JPY 1 million (USD 9,660) for overseas activities, with the resulting artworks to be exhibited at the Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo. Based in Miyagi, Shiga, inspired by the 2011 Tohoku earthquake, focuses on capturing the essence of the human spirit. Fukushima-based Takeuchi employs performative videos and oil paintings to examine the relationship between media and social memory of historical events such as the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster.

A portrait of MITSUMASA ANNO. Image via

On January 16, Jiji Press reported that the beloved Japanese painter and children’s book illustrator Mitsumasa Anno passed away from liver cirrhosis on December 24, 2020, aged 94. Born in Tsuwano, Shimane Prefecture, Anno worked as a teacher before pursuing a career in painting in 1961, making his acclaimed debut as a children’s book author with picture book Mysterious Pictures (1968), inspired by Dutch graphic artist MC Escher. Known for his watercolors, Anno’s picture books feature his delicate, heartwarming, and playful style. He received the Hans Christian Andersen Award in 1984, Japan’s Medal with Purple Ribbon in 1988, the Kikuchi Kan Prize in 2008, and was named by the Japanese government as a Person of Cultural Merit in 2012.

A portrait of KONG SUNG-HUN. Courtesy MMCA, Seoul.

On January 11, Korean multidisciplinary artist Kong Sung-hun passed away of sepsis following a battle with cancer, aged 56. Kong is best known for his brooding, photorealistic oil and acrylic paintings of the South Korean landscape, which contain an ominous sense of foreboding evoking the realities of everyday life. He majored in western painting at Seoul National University in 1994, and was a professor of the arts department at Seoul’s Sungkyunkwan University since 2001. In 2013, he was awarded the Korea Artist Prize by the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art (MMCA). He has exhibited at Seoul’s OCI Museum, Taichung’s National Taiwan Museum of Fine Arts, and Beijing’s PKM Gallery, among others. 

A portrait of RM. Photo by Dispatch. Image via

Kim Nam-joon, known as RM and leader of the global K-pop supergroup BTS, was one of several named the “art sponsor of the year” by Arts Council Korea for his ongoing patronage of the arts. In September 2020, RM donated KRW 100 million (USD 90,400) to the MMCA Foundation, with proceeds going towards the production of some of MMCA’s rare and out-of-print publications on modern and contemporary Korean art, to be distributed to 400 schools and public libraries across the country. Throughout 2020, BTS also hosted international art project “Connect, BTS,” collaborating with cross-disciplinary artists such as Antony Gormley and Tomás Saraceno with showcases across London, Berlin, Buenos Aires, Seoul, and New York. 

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