Sex Dolls at the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art in Korea Spike up Controversy

A number of the displayed works for Korea Artist Price 2020 at the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art in Korea are facing controversy. This is because the work in question included sex dolls. 

Works by Jung Yoon-suk, a visual artist, are part of the exhibit for Korea Artist Price 2020 which is co-organized by the SBS Foundation and MMCA. Earlier in 2020, the organizers selected four visual artists who had their works unveiled at the MCCA Seoul venue last December 4, 2020. The other artists who were chosen for the exhibition were Kim Minae, Chung, Heeseung, and Lee Seulgi.

Sex Dolls at the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art in Korea Spike up Controversy

Moreover, the two-hour documentary film titled “Tomorrow” was at the center of the controversy. Along with it are 14 photographs that show how sex dolls are manufactured and consumed. The first part of the documentary features a China-based factory that manufactures sex dolls. It also shows workers being interviews about how they happened to work at the factory as well as their thoughts as employees. One woman admitted that she feels kind of guilty producing sex dolls.

In the second part of the documentary, a person named Senji was featured. He lives in Japan along with his sex dolls. Another man depicted in the film was Matsuda. He suggested that AI-enabled robots should be the ones to control society since human political systems have already failed.

People Are Asking to Take Down the Art Works

The moment the exhibition was presented to the public, the social media pages of the museum received a large number of comments about the documentary film and the photographs. Some people are saying that sex dolls are an objectification of women. In addition, many said that it is inappropriate to display explicit photos of sex dolls. 

One commenter said that they believe that the artist showcased works that reflect their personal desire. However, they also think that the work exhibited is more like sexual harassment rather than artwork. Some people are also asking the museum to take down the works from the exhibit.  

After the exhibition, the Korea Artist Prize 2020 exhibit has been closed. This is because the two venues of the museum in Seoul have been shut down since the Seoul Metropolitan Government imposed strict social distancing rules. The MMCA’s Deoksugung and Seoul venues remained closed until December.

r 18. On the other hand, the other two venues — Cheongju in North Chungcheong Province and Gwacheon in Gyeonggi Province — will entertain visitors via online reservations. 

Sex Dolls at the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art in Korea Spike up Controversy

MMCA Responded to the Growing Criticisms

As a response to the controversy, MMCA announced on social media that the museum, as well as the artists, are open to a variety of perspectives in terms of interpreting the works. The museum added that it is aware of the controversy that revolved around the works. However, it refused to take down the works in question. It also emphasized that it is its role as a museum to accept various criticism and opinions about artworks.

The museum is also hoping that the audience would focus more on the message that the artists and their works tried to convey instead of focusing on the subject itself. 

Furthermore, the exhibit is scheduled to run until April 4, 2021.

More About the Chosen Artists for the Korea Artist Prize 2020

As mentioned, MMCA selected four artists who can address the most compelling social issues through their artworks. Each of the chosen ones pursued unique art worlds within the areas of installation, sculpture, video, and photography. 

Artist Kim Minae has constantly created site-specific installations. Her works intercede in daily environments as a method to address architectural spaces as well as the institutionalized art scene. 

In the exhibition, Kim presented a new installation that consists of structures and sculptures highlighting the unique architectural structure of Gallery 2. The eradication of the boundaries between the space and structures and those among this artist’s works came from the question that she has been asking for a long time now. That question is, “Can a sculpture exist apart from its environment and context?” 

Sex Dolls at the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art in Korea Spike up Controversy

Moreover, the aforementioned question extends to the reflection on what sculptures and art are.

The next artist is Lee Seulgi, who is based in France since the early 90s. Ever since she has been presenting artworks that connect folk art and traditional craft with the contemporary context. She does such by shedding light on the formality of daily objects. 

Dong Dong Dari Gori, new artwork by Lee is displayed in Gallery 2. The piece was able to transform the exhibition venue through the use of traditional Korean architecture, folklore, and craft aspects. 

In Lee’s exhibition space, there are hanging glass containers that have water from various areas of the world. The water was sent by the artist’s acquaintances. In addition, Lee added a playful spirit to the exhibition by using Korean folk songs as well as traditional French games.

Moreover, Chung Heeseung primarily works with photography. Her art was displayed in Gallery 3. It depicts the deep consideration of life and art that Chung shared with her co-artists using an installation that includes photographs, music, and text. Chung’s broad interaction with her 24 fellow artists is modified into images of objects from their everyday life, portrait photographs, as well as short fragments of conversations that she had with those artists while producing her work. 

Furthermore, MMCA will announce the final winner of the Korea Artist Prize 2020 in February 2021. This is after the second round of screening during the period of the exhibition. The winning artist will have the name “2020 Artist of the Year.” he or she will also be given an additional grant of KRW 10 million. Finally, SBS, MMCA’s partner for the exhibition will produce and air a documentary about contemporary art that features the four artists. 2020’s exhibition will be more meaningful than the previous ones. This is because more efforts were exerted in selecting the four finalists despite the challenges faced due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

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