Pioneering Internet Artist Shu Lea Cheang Receives LG Guggenheim Award

Woman wearing dark colored blazer
Shu Lea Cheang is the second recipient of the award. SMITH © SMITH, Paris, 2024

Shu Lea Cheang, an early pioneer in the field of digital art, is the second recipient of the LG Guggenheim Award, as announced today (March 5). Selected by an international jury of art, culture and technology experts, she will receive an unrestricted honorarium of $100,000.

The prize is given by the LG Guggenheim Art and Technology Initiative, a five-year partnership established in 2022 between New York’s Guggenheim Museum and the South Korean company LG that promotes artists working at the intersection of art and technology. “Shu Lea Cheang was one of the first to recognize the liberatory potential of the digital realm,” said Naomi Beckwith, the Guggenheim’s chief curator and deputy director, in a statement. “We celebrate her bold explorations of bodies, and their desires, in our digital and analog worlds, and are thrilled, alongside LG, to recognize her necessary work.”

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Cheang, 69, is a Taiwanese, American and French multi-hyphenate artist whose work has engaged myriad new technologies since the 1990s. She has produced and directed four feature-length films—1994’s Fresh Kill, 2000’s I.K.U., 2017’s Fluidø and 2023’s UKI—and her art is in the collections of institutions like the Whitney, Walker Art Center, Museum of Modern Art and Centre Pompidou.

Digital figures embrace each other
Shu Lea Cheang, UKI, 2023. Digital color video, with sound, 80 min. Courtesy Guggenheim

Shu Lea Cheang: trailblazer in internet and digital art

Cheang has long been at the forefront of exploring the impact of technological change on society. Her 1998 piece Brandon, for example, made history as the first-ever web art commissioned by the Guggenheim. The work, which explored the legacy of Brandon Teena, a transgender man who was murdered in 1993, was restored in 2017 by a team of computer-based conservationists at the Guggenheim.

Decades later, Cheang’s contributions to digital culture remain relevant. In 2019, she represented Taiwan at the Venice Biennale with 3x3x6, a mixed-media installation whose title alludes to industrial imprisonment (the title refers to a 3×3 square-meter cell monitored by six cameras). Focused on surveillance in the digital age, it referenced ten different cases of imprisonment incited by gender, sexual and racial nonconformity.

Large teacups swirl around in gallery
Shu Lea Cheang, Baby Love (from Locker Baby Project), 2005. Networked media installation, dimensions variable. Installation view: Baby Love, Palais de Tokyo, Paris, December 8, 2005– January 8, 2006. Photo : Florian Kleinefenn

The artist’s oeuvre also includes experimentations with technological themes ranging from alternative currencies to movement sensors. More recent works like 2017’s Mycelium Network Society examined the nature of biotechnologies, while her 2023 installation Utter focused on the societal implications of machine learning.

In their jury statement, panelists for the LG Guggenheim Award praised Cheang’s “fascinating overview of advanced technologies.” Jury members included Eungie Joo, head of contemporary art the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; Koyo Kouoh, executive director of the Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art; Noam Segal, LG Electronics Associate Curator at the Guggenheim; Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev, director of Castello di Rivoli Museo d’Art Contemporanea; and Stephanie Dinkins, the recipient of the inaugural LG Guggenheim Award.

Cheang is set to discuss her practice and future works in a May 2 public program at the Guggenheim’s theater. “The LG Guggenheim Award revives an honorable tradition of the electronic industry’s support for art and technology,” she said in a statement. “To be recognized by an assembly of diverse jury members grants me tremendous confidence in continuing and expanding my art practice.”

Pioneering Internet Artist Shu Lea Cheang Receives the 2024 LG Guggenheim Award

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