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AY_Digital Spit Anicka Yi
7,070,430K of Digital Spit, Kunsthalle Basel, Basel, 2015Photography Philipp Hänger, courtesy 47 Canal, New York, and Kunsthalle Basel, Basel

Fragrance artist Anicka Yi wins major art prize

The conceptual artist, who makes sculptures out of smell, has won the Hugo Boss Art Prize 2016

Contemporary art is littered with examples of artists who have created work out of unusual materials: Damien Hirst used pickled animals, Marc Quinn used his own blood and Helmut Lang used 6,000 pieces of his archive – shredded – but the winner of the 20th Hugo Boss Art Prize employs something perhaps even more unorthodox: smell.

South Korean artist Anicka Yi, who works predominantly with fragrance, makes art that can be enjoyed by our sense of smell, as well as sight. “Smell is a form of sculpture, because it has a lot of volume,” she is noted to have said. Her works include That Fork Feels Good Sliding in My Mouth which comprises of a canvas made from a scented soap.

In winning the Hugo Boss Art Prize 2016, Yi not only receives the hefty sum of $100,000 but also gets the opportunity to stage a solo exhibition at major New York gallery, the Guggenheim. Opening in April of next year, the exhibition will be the artist’s first big show on US soil.

“We are particularly compelled by the way Yi’s sculptures and installations make public and strange, and thus newly addressable, our deeply subjective corporeal realities,” read a statement from the jury. “We also admire the unique embrace of discomfort in her experiments with technology, science, and the plant and animal worlds, all of which push at the limits of perceptual experience in the ‘visual’ arts.”

To win over the jury, Yi fought off competition that included a host of international talents such as Tania Bruguera, Mark Leckey, Ralph Lemon, Laura Owens, and Wael Shawky. As for Hugo Boss, which has been partnering with the Guggenheim for two decades now, the prize represents a way for the German brand to foster emerging artistic talent.

“The Hugo Boss Prize marks a highlight in our partnership with the Guggenheim Museum and we are proud that it has now been at the core of our arts program for twenty years,” noted Mark Langer, Chairman and CEO, Hugo Boss. “We would like to extend our sincerest congratulations to the winner and express our gratitude to the jury and the Guggenheim Museum for their dedication and support.”