Lee Bul.

Lee Bul Awarded Ho-Am Prize for the Arts

South Korean artist Lee Bul has been named the 2019 winner of the $263,300 Ho-Am Prize for the Arts. Established in 1990 by Samsung chairman Kun-Hee Lee, the annual award honors Koreans who have made significant contributions to the fields of science, engineering, medicine, community service, and the arts.

Born in 1964, Lee is a front-runner of contemporary Asian art and has been active for over thirty years. She studied sculpture at Hongik University in Seoul and first rose to international prominence in the late 1990s with her “Cyborg” sculpture series. Her intricate installations reflect a visceral understanding of a vast array of materials, including chains, glass, crystals, beads, plastic, and steel, with which she creates work that is often baroque in detail and cinematic in ambition.

The discombobulating nature of technology, dystopian visions, and the slippage between body and machine are often themes in her work; across her projects in many media there is also a sense of political melancholy and urgency. In the October 2018 issue of Artforum, critic Gilda Williams wrote of Lee’s first major midcareer survey, “Crashing,” at London’s Hayward Gallery: “Punctuating Lee’s gallery-wide presentation were two overtly didactic murals, encyclopedia-style time lines detailing the chronic oppression of Korea—and particularly its women—across centuries.” She added, the work “suggests the artist’s will to overcome confinement and her homeland’s and gender’s chronic subjection to compression.”

Lee represented South Korea at the Forty-Eighth Venice Biennale in 1999 and will return to participate in the main exhibition of this year’s show, “May You Live in Interesting Times,” curated by Ralph Rugoff. 

Previous recipients of the award include Do Ho Suh (2017), Kimsooja (2015), and Lee Ufan (2001).