Contemporary art harmonizes with hanok at two Seoul exhibitions
Two new exhibitions in Seoul allow Korean and European contemporary art works to harmonize with hanok, or Korean traditional buildings, and with a hanok-inspired modern building. One of the characteristics of hanok is that their inside and outside are not severed but are organically connected. The exhibitions make good use of this quality.
One of the exhibitions, “Vision and the Visionary,” presents works by four artists including the renowned English painter Bridget Riley across old and new hanok buildings that are part of Kookmin University’s Myung Won Museum in northern Seoul.
The other exhibition, “Spaceless” shows photo works by eight young artists from Korea and Switzerland in rooms and courtyards of Swiss Hanok, the new building of the Embassy of Switzerland in central Seoul inspired by hanok.
Vision and Visionary
On its campus in northern Seoul, Kookmin University has a 130-year-old hanok, which once was the house of Han Gyu-seol (1856-1930), a high-ranking official in the last years of the Joseon Kingdom (1392-1910). The mansion was originally in Janggyo-dong, central Seoul, but because it faced the danger of demolition amid urban development projects in 1980, it was moved to the campus. The university recently built a new hanok beside Han’s house and plans to use both hanok as art spaces along with a new modern building that will soon open under the name Myung Won Museum.
As the inaugural exhibition, “Vision and the Visionary” showcases paintings and prints by Riley, a famous pioneer of op art, or art that uses optical illusions, and three younger artists who have some common points with the 91-year-old but who use very different styles and mediums. The three are Luke Elwes who presents paintings that seem to be in between abstract art and representational art depicting the surface of water lit by sunlight; Vakki who shows abstract sculptures of primary colors; and Sammy Lee who presents a media art piece.
The works are installed in the rooms and maru, or spaces with wooden floors that connect hanok rooms to its outside. Visitors can view the works not only inside the rooms or on the maru but also from the outside of the building, in other words, from the courtyards via open doors and windows.
The exhibition runs through Nov. 13. The museum is closed on Mondays.
The Embassy of Switzerland, on Saturday, started its second art exhibition since its new building called Swiss Hanok was built in 2019. Its first exhibition was “Breathing Walls” which took place a year ago and attracted some 7,000 visitors in just two weeks.
The new exhibition “Spaceless” features 60 photography and video works that explore spaces — not only physical and architectural spaces but also spaces in photographic images and virtual spaces on the Internet and social media. The works are installed not only in a room of the embassy building but also on the building’s outer walls and in the courtyards.
“The meaning of space is changing rapidly,” Kyungwoo Chun, a famous artist and Chung-Ang University professor who curated this exhibition, said during a preview on Friday. “All the participating artists are interested in how to perceive spaces and how to express them through the medium of photography with new experiments.
“Visitors will have a kind of unique spatial experience as the exhibition will take place both in and outside of the embassy building, which is a reinterpretation of hanok,” the curator added.
Among the participating artists are Youngho Jeong, Jihyun Jung, Doyoung Kim and Taejun Yun, who are alumni of Chung-Ang University’s photography department, considered to be Korea’s top photography art school. The participants also include Florian Amoser, Alexandra Dautel, Younès Klouche and Margot Sparkes, who are alumni of Switzerland’s prestigious art school University of Art and Design Lausanne.
According to the Swiss Embassy, “Spaceless” is an open-to-public cultural event organized by the embassy ahead of the 60th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Korea and Switzerland which falls next year.
“I am delighted to open the embassy to the public once again to showcase works of rising Korean and Swiss artists,” said Dagmar Schmidt Tartagli, Ambassador of Switzerland to Korea.
“The Swiss Embassy premises has transformed into a beautiful exhibition space featuring original works of artists from both countries who offer different perspectives on urban and digital transformations.”
The exhibition runs for three weeks until Nov. 6 from Thursday to Sunday. Prior reservation is required for entry and can be made through the Swiss Embassy’s website.
BY MOON SO-YOUNG [firstname.lastname@example.org]