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Jean Shin

Born 1971, Seoul, South Korea 

Jean Shin is known for her sprawling works, often created for public spaces - transforming accumulations of discarded objects into striking installations that interrogate our complex relationship between material consumption, collective identity, and community engagement.

Water’s Echo, the work Shin has created expressly for Metropolis, reimagines the topography of downtown New York and draws a direct connection to the location of the Performing Arts Center. She crafted the work by composing and sewing together thousands of mother-of-pearl shell buttons that had been sitting, unwanted, in a warehouse. Her expansive aerial map delineates land, water, and a network of estuaries, including the point where the Hudson River meets the Atlantic Ocean. The lighter buttons correlate to land, the darker ones to water.

Made from the inner layers of shells, notably oysters and mussels, this mass of commonplace buttons reflects on many historic layers of the Center’s site. The traditional home of Indigenous peoples, primarily the Lenape, the rich marine life and ecosystems that were native to this area included plentiful oyster beds. Once known as “Oyster Island,” in the mid-19th century the farming and distribution of oysters was one of the region’s foremost industries.

As she repurposes and effectively returns this collection of buttons to the site, Shin invites us to reflect on its environmental loss, the process of renewal, and the resonant histories of where we stand.

Born in Seoul, South Korea, and raised in the U.S., Jean Shin works in Brooklyn and in the Hudson Valley. Her work has been widely exhibited and collected in over 150 major museums and cultural institutions, including solo exhibitions at The Museum of Modern Art in New York, Philadelphia Museum of Art, Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington DC, and Asian Art Museum in San Francisco, where in 2020 she was the first Korean-American woman artist featured in a solo exhibition. Shin has received numerous awards, including the Frederic Church Award for her contributions to American art and culture.