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(1932 – 2006), South Korea

Nam June Paik Biography

An innovator who brought the television to art, Nam June Paik is regarded as the progenitor of video art. An integral member of the art movement Fluxus, he masterminded, with artist Hans Haacke, an award-winning installation for the German Pavilion at the 45th Venice Biennale in 1993.

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Life

Nam June Paik was born in Seoul and fled the country with his family during the Korean War. By 1950, he was living in Japan and began his studies in aesthetics and musicology at the University of Tokyo in 1953. He continued his education in West Germany with the composer Thrasybulus Georgios Georgiades at the University of Munich, and at the International Music College in Freiburg with composer Woflgang Fortner.

It was at a summer school in Darmstadt that Paik met contemporary composers Karlheinz Stockhausen and John Cage. These meetings were to prove influential as Paik began to develop his avant-garde practice melding art and music.

In 1961, Paik joined Fluxus, an influential experimental community of artists, and had his inaugural solo exhibition at Galerie Parnass, Germany in 1963. Following his move to New York, Paik cemented his position as a pioneer and visionary. He created often sensational performances with his long-term collaborator Charlotte Moorman and worked with engineer Shuya Abe to build remote-controlled robots.

As his career progressed, Paik's interest in global communications developed. In the late 1970s, he staged his first satellite telecast, and took to working on an increasingly monumental scale throughout the 1980s and 1990s. Despite suffering a stroke in 1996, Paik adapted his ways of working and continued the drawing practice that had long been integral to his artistic process. Paik died in 2006 in Miami Beach, Florida.

Artworks

Nam June Paik's inventive vision embraced a range of genres moving between performance, drawing, music, sculpture, and broadcasting.

His first use of the television in works such as Zen for TV (1963) positioned the technology as a material capable of delivering more than content. As he exclaimed in his 1969 manifesto, 'I want to shape the TV screen canvas as precisely as Leonardo, as freely as Picasso, as colorfully as Renoir, as profoundly as Mondrian, as violently as Pollock, and as lyrically as Jasper Johns.'

Paik's use of the object was multifarious. In TV Bra for Living Sculpture (1969), a collaboration with Charlotte Moorman, two television sets became the cellist's bra. In sprawling installations like TV Garden (1974–1977), the device seemed to grow from the branches of shrubs—Paik's way of showing how nature and technology could coexist. The television could be manipulated with magnets as in Magnet TV (1965), drawn upon, or taken apart and recomposed to form a robot.

Paik's commitment to the object and the form of communication it engendered paved the way for his ground-breaking live broadcast performances. In 1989, Good Morning, Mr. Orwell, a fast-paced, flickering stream of images and musical performances, was transmitted across five countries.

Public Commissions

Nam June Paik received several public commissions, including from Chase Manhattan Bank, Brooklyn; NY Electro-Symbio Phonics for Phoenix, Arizona (both 1992); and Forest City Residential Development, Philadelphia, 1990.

Awards and Accolades

Nam June Paik received numerous awards throughout this lifetime, including Order of Cultural Merit (2007); Lifetime Achievement in Contemporary Sculpture Award, International Sculpture Center (2001); Golden Lion, 45th Venice Biennale; and Picasso Medal (1992), among many others.

Exhibitions

The artist has had major retrospectives at numerous institutions, including San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (2021); Tate Modern, London (2019); Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam (2019); Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago (2019); Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington D.C. (2011); Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York (2000); and National Museum of Contemporary Art, Seoul (1992).

The artist has also participated in the Venice Biennale (1984 and 1993); Documenta (1997 and 1987); and the Whitney Biennial (1977, 1981, 1983, 1987, and 1989).

Art Market

Nam June Paik's work has included some of the highest fetching video works at auction. Since his death, works have been offered more frequently, with his work Stag (1996) reaching US $590,301 at Seoul Auction, Hong Kong in 2017. His work Global Groove (1973) was minted as an NFT in 2021 and sold by Christie's.

Ocula | 2021

Nam June Paik Featured Artworks

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Beuys Vox by Nam June Paik contemporary artwork sculpture
Nam June PaikBeuys Vox, 1961-1986Mixed media
Tang Contemporary Art Contact Gallery
Tiger lives by Nam June Paik contemporary artwork sculpture, mixed media
Nam June PaikTiger lives, 2000Mixed media
61 x 72 cm
Tang Contemporary Art Contact Gallery
Sonatine for Goldfish by Nam June Paik contemporary artwork sculpture, mixed media
Nam June PaikSonatine for Goldfish, 1992RCA Victor television casing with aquarium
40 x 49 x 41 cm
Tang Contemporary Art Contact Gallery
Before the Word There was Light, After the Word There Will Be Light by Nam June Paik contemporary artwork sculpture, mixed media
Nam June PaikBefore the Word There was Light, After the Word There Will Be Light, 1992Dumont television casing with candle
44 x 60 x 52 cm
Tang Contemporary Art Contact Gallery
Self-portrait by Nam June Paik contemporary artwork sculpture, mixed media
Nam June PaikSelf-portrait, 19891950's Philco Predicta television cabinet with mixed media
59.5 x 62 x 37 cm
Not for sale
Tang Contemporary Art
Digital Painting by Nam June Paik contemporary artwork sculpture, mixed media, moving image
Nam June PaikDigital Painting, 2000Mixed media, single channel
61 x 72 cm
Tang Contemporary Art Contact Gallery
DO NOT WATCH TV by Nam June Paik contemporary artwork sculpture, mixed media
Nam June PaikDO NOT WATCH TV, 1990Nam June Paik bronze dead mask, vacuum tube, antique TV, book (Tom Swift and His Giant Robot)
82 x 54 x 82 cm
Tang Contemporary Art Contact Gallery
I Never Read Wittgenstein by Nam June Paik contemporary artwork painting, sculpture, mixed media, moving image
Nam June PaikI Never Read Wittgenstein, 1999Wall painting in seven colours with four televisions
Tang Contemporary Art Contact Gallery

Nam June Paik Recent Exhibitions

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Nam June Paik Represented By

Gagosian contemporary art gallery in 980 Madison Avenue, New York, USA Gagosian Athens, Basel, Beverly Hills, Geneva, Hong Kong, Le Bourget, London, New York, Paris, Rome, San Francisco

Nam June Paik In Ocula Magazine

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Nam June Paik In Related Press

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