The Korea Herald


‘Artist of the Year’ award seeks accessibility


Published : Aug. 9, 2011 - 18:53

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Nomination jury opened up to include critics, curators

The National Museum of Contemporary Art announced Monday that its annual “Artist of the Year” exhibition is to have a more open selection process and offer more substantial support to the winner.

MOCA started the “Artist of the Year” program in 1995 to reward South Korean artists who are active in their field. Each year, selected artists get to hold a solo exhibition at the national museum. A total of 23 artists have been selected so far. Art insiders, however, had expressed concerns that the process could make it harder for artists to break into the museum, for the exhibition could become the only way for artists to hold solo shows there. The relatively closed screening process was questioned every year as well.

“Two facts ― that the selection of the artists was done only within the MOCA staff and that the selected artists were not being promoted very well ― were pointed out as problems during the 15 years. The improved program will allow more art insiders to participate in the selection of the artists in a clear and fair way,” said Choi Eun-ju, head of the MOCA’s office of development.

The new program to start next year will focus on discovering and fostering artists who suggest a new vision for Korean art and offer impressive and experimental works.

A nominating committee composed of less than 10 members includes curators, art critics and art journalists working in and outside of Korea will recommend artists. Then, not one but about three finalists will showcase their works at the museum for a spell before the winner gets chosen at the end of the show.

The jury will be composed of high-profile curators and critics who have great influence over the world’s art scene. The screening process itself will be an opportunity for the artists to promote themselves as the powerful juries will visit their ateliers and conduct interviews, explained Choi. 
“Hwang Hui” by Kim Ho-suk (MOCA) “Hwang Hui” by Kim Ho-suk (MOCA)
“Tou-time Tunnel” by Jheon Soo-cheon (MOCA) “Tou-time Tunnel” by Jheon Soo-cheon (MOCA)

An exclusive curator will be assigned to the winner for a year to take care of the artist’s exhibitions and promotions. MOCA also signed a MOU with broadcaster SBS which will make a digital brochure of the artists and promote them through TV.

The artist of 2011 will not be chosen. Instead, to wrap up season 1 and prepare for the next round, MOCA opened an exhibition to look back at the artworks of the 23 winners.

At the exhibition “Artist of the Year 1995-2010,” about 150 representative paintings, sculptures, installation works, photos and videos by the winning artists are on display.

Although there have been buzzes about the program during the past years, the selected artists have established themselves more firmly in Korea’s art world and have become one of the leaders ever since.

The star-studded list of the winners include Jheon Soo-cheon (1995) who ponders questions over human existence, mostly through installation works using a variety of materials; Kim Ho-suk (1999) who modernizes Korean traditional painting techniques in his own style; Jung Yeon-doo (2007) known for theatrical video works; and Park Ki-won (2010) who transforms the original purposes of spaces using materials like vinyl sheets.

The exhibition runs through Oct. 30 at the National Museum of Contemporary Art in Gwacheon, Gyeonggi Province. Admission is 3,000 won. For more information, call (02) 2188-6114 or visit

By Park Min-young (