Samsung’s Leeum Museum of Art brought back ARTSPECTRUM, Leeum’s artist award program for young and emerging Korean artists.
The last ARTSPECTRUM was held in 2016, a year before museum co-founder Hong Ra-Hee, the wife of late Samsung chairman Lee Kun-hee and one of the most powerful art figures in Korea, resigned her position as director.
The exhibition marks its seventh edition this year. On view from March 2 through July 3, 2022, it presents seventeen artworks by eight contemporary artists: Donghee Kim (b. 1986), Mo Kim (b. 1980), Hyeree Christina Mary Ro (b. 1987), Park Seong Jun (b. 1979), Smallstudiosemi (b. 1987), Yuri An (b. 1983), Hyunsun Jeon (b. 1989), and Jeamin Cha (b. 1986).
ARTSPECTRUM is a biannual art award and exhibition program aiming to recognize promising Korean contemporary artists and introduce their outstanding artworks to the public, both inside and outside of the country.
The program was first launched in 2001 at Hoam Gallery, one of the other museums of the Samsung Foundation of Culture. Leeum took over the program in 2006 and, in 2014, established its current system of inviting outside art experts along with in-house curators to select the finalists and choose one winner by another group of art professionals during the exhibition.
The program was known for having put considerable effort into assessing the suitability of candidates and presenting the artworks in the exhibition. According to an 2018 article by a South Korean daily newspaper Kukmin Ilbo, the outside recommenders were requested to make a presentation about the validity and relevance of the artists. And each selected artist was assigned with one curator, making the program practically a group of solo exhibitions rather than a group show.
While the program has been an important foothold for many young artists to get to the next level, it has also played a significant role in addressing the changes in the structure and landscape of Korea’s contemporary art world.
Of the artists who are playing an instrumental part in mapping the Korean contemporary art world, a number of them have featured their works in ARTSPECTRUM. These include Hyungkoo Lee (b. 1969), who represented Korea at the 52nd Biennale di Venezia (Venice Biennale) in 2007; Moon Kyungwon (b. 1969), a participant of dOCUMENTA (13) in Kassel in 2012 as a duo with artist Jeon Joonho; Sung Hwan Kim (b. 1975), who had a solo exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in 2021; and Ayoung Kim (b. 1979), who presented one of her works at the main exhibition of the 56th Venice Biennale and many more.
The resumption of the program is not only expected to support new dialogues and diverse artistic practices by young artists, but also to capture and understand the fast-changing landscape of the contemporary art world.
This year, the museum will announce the winner in May and grant a 30 million KRW (approximately $25,000) award in recognition of promising talent in the visual arts.
Founded in 2004, the Leeum Museum of Art is one of the most recognized and respected art museums in the country. Its collection is a range of Korean traditional art and contemporary art, including a number of national treasures as well as some of the most widely known modern and contemporary artworks, with pieces by Lee Ufan, Kim Whanki, Do Ho Suh, Nam June Paik, Donald Judd, Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko, and Andy Warhol.