South Korean artist Haegue Yang wins 13th Benesse Prize at Singapore Biennale

South Korean artist Haegue Yang wins the 13th Benesse Prize Award at a ceremony held on Oct 15 at Singapore Art Museum at Tanjong Pagar Distripark. PHOTO: BENESSE HOLDINGS

SINGAPORE - South Korean artist Haegue Yang has won the 13th Benesse Prize with her mobile sculptural installation comprising everyday items including steel bells, rattan, artificial plants and plastic twine.

The sculptural work is being presented as part of the Singapore Biennale 2022, which has been named Natasha.

Speaking at the award ceremony at Singapore Art Museum at Tanjong Pagar Distripark last Saturday, Yang, who is also professor of fine arts at the Staedelschule in Frankfurt am Main, Germany, seemed a little surprised.

“I don’t get prizes as often as one might imagine,” she said.

This could be in part because the titles of her work are a bit of a mouthful. This one is called The Hybrid Intermediates – Flourishing Electrophorus Duo (Sonic Intermediate – Hairy Carbonous Dweller And The Randing Intermediate – Furless Uncolored Dweller) 2022.

The anthropomorphic installation, which almost seems to have a personality, was one of more than 100 works by over 50 international and local artists being shown at the biennale, which is on until March 19.

The Benesse Prize comes with a cash prize of three million yen (S$29,000). It was established in 1995 when Fukutake Publishing changed its corporate name to Benesse Corporation. It was first awarded at the Venice Biennale in the same year.

Since 2016, the Benesse Prize has shifted its focus to Asia and has been presented to artists participating in the Singapore Biennale in collaboration with the Singapore Art Museum.

The prize recognises an artist whose work embodies an experimental and critical spirit and who has the potential to create works that relate to Benesse’s philosophy of well-being.

Artist Amanda Heng was the first Singaporean winner of the 12th Benesse Prize in 2019.

An idea behind this biennale edition’s name Natasha was that it “foregrounded the notion of presence”, said its co-artistic directors Binna Choi, Nida Ghouse, June Yap and Ala Younis.

In an e-mail response to The Straits Times, they said: “We also foreground our interest in placing relationships at the centre of our work, where art is infused into the everyday and made accessible to communities beyond the traditional arts audiences.”

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