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THE INVESTOR
May 16, 2021

Sex dolls at MMCA stir up controversy

  • PUBLISHED :December 13, 2020 - 13:25
  • UPDATED :December 13, 2020 - 13:31
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Installation views of works by visual artist Jung Yoon-suk at Korea Artist Prize 2020 (MMCA)

Some of the exhibited works for Korea Artist Prize 2020 at the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Korea, are under fire for including sex dolls.

Works by visual artist Jung Yoon-suk are part of the exhibition for Korea Artist Prize 2020, co-organized by the MMCA and SBS Foundation. Four visual artists were selected earlier this year, and their works were unveiled at the MMCA Seoul venue on Dec. 4.

At the center of the controversy is the two-hour documentary film “Tomorrow” along with 14 photographs that depict how sex dolls are produced and consumed. 

Installation views of works by visual artist Jung Yoon-suk at Korea Artist Prize 2020 (MMCA)


The first part of the film shows a factory in China that produces sex dolls, featuring interviews with workers at the factory on how they happened to work there and their thoughts as employees. One woman confesses that she feels “sort of guilty” manufacturing the sex dolls.

The second part of the film depicts the stories of a person named Senji, who lives with these dolls in Japan, and Matsuda, who suggests that artificially intelligent robots should control society since human political systems have failed.

As soon as the exhibition was unveiled to the public, the museum’s social media accounts received numerous comments regarding the documentary film and photographs, with some saying sex dolls symbolize the sexual objectification of women and that it is inappropriate to display explicit photographs of sex dolls.

“I believe the artist showcased works that reflect the artist’s personal desire, and I would say the work is more like a sexual harassment than an artwork,” one comment reads. Some are calling on the museum to remove the works from the exhibition.

The exhibit for Korea Artist Prize 2020 is now closed, as the museum’s two venues in Seoul have been shut down due to the Seoul Metropolitan Government’s stricter social distancing rules. The national museum’s Seoul and Deoksugung venues will remain shut until Dec. 18, while the two other venues, Gwacheon in Gyeonggi Province and Cheongju in North Chungcheong Province, will accept visitors via online reservations.

In response to the growing criticism, the museum announced its stance on social media on Tuesday, stating the museum and the artist are open to different perspectives in interpreting the works.

“We are aware of the ongoing controversy about the works, but it is not appropriate to withdraw the works at this moment. It is a museum’s role to accept a variety of criticisms and opinions about artworks,” an official from the museum told The Korea Herald on condition of anonymity.

“We hope the audience focuses more on the message that the artist tried to convey through the works rather than focusing on the subject itself.”

The exhibition is scheduled to run through April 4.

By Park Yuna (yunapark@heraldcorp.com)

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