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Oum Jeongsoon’s Elephant Without a Trunk Scoops Up a Top Prize

2 min read  ·  11 May 2023

Oum Jeongsoon in front of one of her award-winning elephant pieces. Photograph: Gwangju Biennale Foundation

Oum Jeongsoon in front of one of her award-winning elephant pieces. Photograph: Gwangju Biennale Foundation

The South Korean artist is on the HENI News radar after her tactile sculpture of an elephant without a trunk became the standout work in the Gwangju Biennale.

Oum Jeongsoon's HENI Score—a unique artist’s sentiment index—increased a spectacular 197% after she was awarded the exhibition’s $100,000 main prize for her poignant sculpture.

The South Korean artist's work Elephant Without Trunk (2023), is the centerpiece of the first section of the prestigious international exhibition in the Korean city. The thought-provoking sculpture is highly tactile and visitors are encourage to interact with it. It is based on the artist’s work with blind students. They worked together with disabled elephants. The curious creature has propelled Oum to the forefront of the 14th Gwangju Biennale, where she has three related works, also covered in wool.

The artist, who was born in 1961 and whose name is also spelled Jeong-Soon Oum, is relatively untested at auction. Her paintings and screen prints have sold for up to $6,000 in Seoul but that looks set to change. She also works with photography and creates installations.

Oum’s fascination with elephants began more than a decade ago, and her latest sculptures in the “Elephant Without Trunk” series question power structures in Korean life. The work can be seen as a reference to oppressed minorities. She was inspired by the story of an elephant condemned to lonely exile on an island. The visually striking and tactile nature of her large-scale work invites interaction, which the artist hopes will spark conversations about what society might look like when oppressive power structures are dismantled.

She told the Guardian: “When we visualise an elephant, the first thing we think about is its nose.” Oum added: “It represents power and hierarchy, and I wanted to make a connection to our society: when we get rid of the power structure, what will we see?”

To find out more about Oum Jeongsoon, see her [HENI Dashboard]. A unique feature of HENI News, HENI Dashboards allows you to discover thousands of artists who you may not be familiar with along with well-known names.