The Yanghyun Foundation had announced the Nigerian artist Otobong Nkanga as the recipient of the 2015 Yanghyun Prize. Nkanga has been selected by the distinguished jury panel consisting of Chris Dercon, Director of Tate Modern, and Adam D. Weinberg, Alice Pratt Brown Director of Whitney Museum of American Art.
Otobong Nkanga’s activities and performances encompass all kinds of media and motivate photography, drawing, painting, sculpture, installation and video. They weave together concerns about land, natural resources, architecture, the value connected to them and the dynamic status of remembrance. Her trans-categorical artistic practice is defined by her ability to pervade the complex layers of human and natural traces left in material objects and landscapes.
For Nkanga, the crucial element connecting these concepts is memory: “Memory is not only an autobiographical state, but also an important notion in relation to objects that leave traces.” For her, intangible elements such as smell are as important as objects in the narration of who we are. They are keys to multidimensional perspectives on events, spaces and experiences that constitute past and present.
Otobong Nkanga was born in Kano, Nigeria in 1974. She studied at the Obafemi Awolowo University, Osun State, Nigeria, Ecole Nationale Superieure des Beaux Arts in Paris, and the Rijksakademie van beeldende kunsten, Amsterdam, and completed Advanced Studies in the Performing Arts at the DasArts, Amsterdam, The Netherlands.
She has participated in a number of international exhibitions, including Biennale de Lyon (2015), Sao Paulo Biennale (2014), Berlin Biennale (2014) and Sharjah Biennale (2013), and has held solo exhibitions at a number of art institutions, such as Museum Folkwang, Germany; M HKA, Belgium; Stedelijk Museum, The Netherlands; and Kadist Foundation, France.
The jury panel commented in their statement: “In Nkanga’s work, the landscape is a sounding board for ideas, stories and memories, evoking an awareness of our connection with natural resources and its challenging histories. Her installations are imaginative and emotive, but also earthly: they represent our relationship with the world. We are greatly impressed by the intensity, depth and variety of Nkanga’s body of work, as well as its profoundly beautiful and urgently political character.”
The Yanghyun Prize was established in 2008 as the first international art prize by a Korean institution. Its key aim is to acknowledge and support outstanding mid-career artists by offering a global stage for exhibiting their work, a long-standing wish of the late Mr. Sooho Cho, who was a well-known art lover and philanthropist. Every year, a selected panel of judges will review every entry and the winner is announced at the Yanghyun Prize awards ceremony held every October.
The Prize, awarded each year to an artist for his or her significant achievement, rewards a cash prize of KRW 100,000,000 (US$ 82,217) and a chance to showcase a full sponsored exhibition at one of the world’s most renowned galleries or museums of the winner’s choice within 3 years of receiving the prize. Past recipients are Cameron Jamie (2008), Isa Genzken (2009), Jewyo Rhii (2010), Akram Zaatari (2011), Abraham Cruzvillegas (2012), Rivane Neuenschwander (2013) and Apitchapong Weerasethakul (2014).