Сreativity and Daydream. Korean Eye 2020: Contemporary Korean Art
On 24 March 2020, the Hermitage broadcast online from the General Staff building the opening of the exhibition “Сreativity and Daydream. Korean Eye 2020: Contemporary Korean Art” and a presentation of the display by its curators. This event is the continuation of a series of projects that sees the State Hermitage organizing group exhibitions of young artists from different countries.
After shows of American, British and Japanese talents, the Hermitage has turned its attention to the art of South Korea. The exhibition invites viewers to acquaint themselves with a phenomenon almost unknown to the Russian public – the contemporary South Korean art scene.
As Mikhail Borisovich Piotrovsky, General Director of the State Hermitage, observed in his video address: “The Hermitage is opening an exhibition of very young Korean artists – artists from a nation where they are fond of astonishing the world with their unexpected turns in politics and economics, with their achievements, their art, their super-popular groups and films that stun festival juries. At the same time, Korea’s soul and its national character remain a closed book for the world, although nobody especially hides them. We are continuing two traditions: on the one hand, we have repeatedly held very strong exhibitions of classic Korean art that featured examples of high national art, pieces that bear the title ‘national heritage’. Today we are showing entirely new art, what has been created in South Korea after the country opened up to the world. The other tradition that we are continuing for several years now in conjunction with the Saatchi Gallery is exhibitions of very young artists. We bring them out into the world, as it were, through an exhibition, first in the Hermitage, then in London. It is the same this time: the exhibition will run in the Hermitage, then in London, in the Saatchi Gallery, and after that it will go back to Seoul. As a result of that tour, the artists who have been specially selected by our specialists along with British and Korean ones will become famous and successful. This is the second exhibition that we are opening without a formal ceremony, without having an audience present. The museum is closed for quarantine, but on the other hand the exhibition will be regularly transmitted on the website and on all the Hermitage’s social media pages, which means that it will be seen by considerably more people than would do, if it were just those who physically come to the museum. I think that the exhibition is very timely. It is splendid and will make a big impression on everyone, especially as Korea is a country that seems to have overcome the coronavirus.”
The exhibition brings together works by 16 artists, including Gosari, Young In Hong, Lee Youngbaek, Sekyung Lee, Doowon, Cody Choi, Jungho Oak, Baek Jungki, Won Woo Lee, Da In Park, Eunha Kim, Hoyeon Kang, Kwantaeck Park, Lee Youngbaek , Meekyoung Shin, Park Miock and Yoonsuk Choi. The display features such different genres as installation, performance, painting, sculpture, ceramics, embroidery, video art and photography. All the works have been created over the past few years and are being presented in Russia for the first time.
Among the South Korean artists’ main themes mention should be made of the exploration of historical and political events, the paradoxes of the post-colonial sphere, clashes of the consumer society and the global political context seen through the lens of a traditional culture. The exhibition contains works by artists who are also interested in the themes of sincere communication and contemplation, the visualization of social dilemmas and the examination of personal emotional experiences. The attention to the identity and history of their own country enables the South Koreans to identify and develop recognizable national features in their work on these universal ideas that occupy artists around the world.
Great interest is aroused by the works of artist who prefer to use unusual materials and techniques, such as the series of porcelain plates by Sekyung Lee that are decorated with patterns made of real human hair, Doowon's triptych painted on fabrics and carpets picked up on his travels, and a picture-installation that Eunha Kim assembled from discarded clothing, among many others.
In the course of the 20th century, the culture of South Korea came under the strong outside influence of other countries several times and it followed a complex course towards the formation of its own artistic line. Among the important points in that development mention can be made of the post-war Informel tendency, the Dansaekhwa monochrome style, an interest in experimental movements and performance, the critical realism of the Minjung Misul style and hyperrealism. Other decisive moments were the opening in Seoul in 1969 of the first museum of contemporary art, which played an important role in the recognition of the phenomenon at a national level, and citizens’ freedom to travel out of the country, which only became possible from 1989.
Сreativity and daydream – the terms used in the title of the exhibition – point to a romanticism that is not old-fashioned but topical, that possesses clarity and an almost machine-like precision. One thing that young Korean artists have in common today is the ability to create credible myths, to tell about them by means of unusual techniques and materials that only acquire perfect visual form through due effort. Contemporary South Korean art possesses an aesthetic expressiveness that anyone can understand: while addressing complex topics and national traditions, the artists make use of an intuitively comprehensible visual code. The exhibition invites us to start to observe the process of the development of contemporary art and to discover for ourselves one more facet of the contemporary culture of South Korea.
The exhibition of contemporary South Korean art is housed in the halls of contemporary art in the General Staff building. It has been organized by the State Hermitage as part of the Hermitage 20/21 project in conjunction with PCA (the Parallel Contemporary Art foundation) and the Saatchi Gallery, and with the support of the Hana Bank. It marks the 30th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Russia and South Korea.
The exhibition curators are Dmitry Ozerkov, Candidate of Philosophical Sciences, Head of the State Hermitage’s Department of Contemporary Art; Serenella Сiclitira, CEO and Founder of PCA; Philippa Adams, Senior Director of the Saatchi Gallery; and Anastasia Garnova of the Hermitage’s Department of Contemporary Art.