Lee Bul, the South Korean artist whose eye-catching sculptures and installations use a disparate array of media to create an air of dystopia, has been awarded the annual Ho-Am Prize for the Arts. The prize, which comes with a purse of $263,300, is given out each year by Samsung chairman Lee Kun-hee to an individual who has, according to its website, “contributed to academics, the arts, and social development, or who have furthered the welfare of humanity through distinguished accomplishments in their respective professional fields.”
Past winners in the arts category include opera singer Kwangchul Youn, poet Tong-gyu Hwang, and the novelist Kyung-sook Shin, as well as the contemporary artists Do Ho Suh, Kimsooja, and Lee Ufan.
Bul was born in 1964 and came of age in the 1990s, when her “Cyborg” series began attracting attention internationally. Artforumnoted the works in that series “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.”
In 1999, she represented South Korea in the 48th Venice Biennale, and will return this year in the central exhibition of the massively important contemporary art event, which will open in May and is curated by Ralph Rugoff. Rugoff is also the curator of the Hayward Gallery in London, where Bul had a show in 2018, and her work is currently up at the SCAD Museum of Art in Savannah, Georgia. At last month’s Art Basel Hong Kong, her three galleries—Lehmann Maupin, PKM gallery, and Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac—jointly brought to the fair’s Encounters sectorWilling To Be Vulnerable - Metalized Balloon (2019), a gigantic zeppelin that floated overhead. It sold to a Chinese institution, and had an asking price of $200,000.