in Frieze Seoul , News | 18 AUG 23

Woo Hannah: Winner of the Inaugural Frieze Seoul Artist Award

For a new special commission, the Korean artist will create a large-scale installation suspended from the ceiling of the fair, with draped fabrics exploring ideas of time, ageing and women’s bodies

in Frieze Seoul , News | 18 AUG 23
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WOO Hannah has been named as the recipient of the inaugural Artist Award at Frieze Seoul, supported by Bulgari. The award provides an emerging artist with the platform to debut an ambitious new commission at Frieze Seoul. In the above video, the artist explains some of the themes, inspirations and motivations behind the work. 

The Artist Award is part of Frieze Seoul’s curated program of special projects and collaborations, which complement the presentations made by the fair’s participating galleries. The second edition of the fair will take place at COEX from September 6–9, 2023 and is supported by LG OLED as the Official Headline Partner, in a collaboration that brings together the worlds of art and technology, as well as Global Lead Partner Deutsche Bank, which this year celebrates 20 years of partnership with Frieze. 

WOO Hannah in studio
Woo Hannah. Photo by LEE Seungheon.

Patrick Lee, Director of Frieze Seoul, said: “We are thrilled that WOO Hannah is the winner of the first Artist Award at Frieze Seoul. The initiative, which sees its Seoul debut this year, provides invaluable support and significant international visibility for an artist in the early stages of their career. The jury strongly endorsed WOO Hannah for her captivating fabric installations, which thoughtfully examine femininity and invert the traditions of sculpture.”

WOO’s winning commission, titled The Great Ballroom, is a large-scale installation that continues her new series Milk and Honey (2023–ongoing). Suspended from the ceiling of COEX, the installation’s draped fabrics bring to mind the shape of women’s breasts and are reminiscent of hanging curtains in a ballroom, or a bat spreading its wings in mid-air.

WOO’s installation embraces the inevitability of decay and the process of ageing and bodily change, rather than rejecting or lamenting it. Much like the ever-changing nature of aging skin and the dynamic changes of our bodies, the shape of her fabric pieces naturally transforms over time, responding to the interplay between the forces of gravity and the flexible nature of the material. Each fabric piece represents a different stage of a woman’s body during breastfeeding, from the swelling of breasts in preparation, to the restful period when the milk subsides.

Fabric installation by WOO Hannah
Woo Hannah, Milk and Honey 5, 2023. To be shown as part of ‘The Great Ballroom’. Courtesy of the artist. Photo by LEE Seungheon

The Great Ballroom invites visitors to embrace and acknowledge the universal experience of the passage of time and our shared journey of ageing. It serves as an avenue for reflection and celebration, highlighting the inherent beauty found within the transitions of life. For The Great Ballroom, WOO visited small workshops and factories around Dongdaemun Market to source recyclable fabric for each aspect of the work.

The inaugural award was selected by a jury of leading industry figures, including Reuben Keehan (Curator, Contemporary Asian Art, Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art), KIM Sunjung (Artistic Director, Art Sonje Center), KOH Wonseok (independent curator), MOON Kyungwon (Artist and Professor at Ewha Womans University) and Andrew Russeth (art critic).

About WOO Hannah

WOO Hannah (b.1988, Daejeon, South Korea) is based in Seoul and received B.F.A. and M.F.A. from the School of Visual Arts, Korea National University of Arts. Woo’s fabric installation series explore the notions of the body, navigating the interplay between the constraints of reality and the boundless realms of the fantasy. Through her fabric sculptures, she embodies human and animal body parts and organs, drawing inspiration from personal and shared experiences of absence, desire and the acceptance of differences in relation to the body. Woo has recently exhibited at Art Sonje Center (2023), Frieze’s No.9 Cork Street (2023), SongEun Art Center (2022), Daejeon Museum of Art (2020), Art plant Asia 2020 (2020) and Asia Culture Center (2017); she was also a resident at the SeMA Nanji Residency in 2021.

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Main image: Woo Hannah, Milk and Honey 5, 2023. To be shown as part of ‘The Great Ballroom’. Courtesy of the artist. Photo by Lee Seungheon