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Ocula Insight

Sang-A Chun

Ocula Editorial 29 February 2016
Image: Sang A-Chun.

From 31st March to 3rd April 2016, the French capital will welcome the return of the Art Paris Art Fair.

With more than 140 modern and contemporary art galleries from 20 countries, Art Paris Art Fair provides a comprehensive offering of art from the post-war period to the present day. This year the fair confirms its commitment to the East by inviting South Korea as a special guest of honour, echoing the celebrations planned for France-Korea year.

Under the leadership of guest curator Sang-A Chun, the Art Paris Art Fair will showcase the vast wealth of Korean art. With close to 80 Korean artists and a strong contingent of Korean galleries, this project spans the emergence of contemporary Korean art in the 1960s to the thriving contemporary art scene of today. And as part of the wider celebrations of France-Korea year, exhibitions and installations of Korean art will be visible throughout the capital during Art Paris Art Fair.

We spoke to Sang-A Chun about her curatorial vision for the project and her best picks for contemporary Korean art on display in Paris this spring.

Did you have any particular goals in curating the special South Korean section of the Art Paris Art Fair and do you feel you have achieved these?

I wanted to present the South Korean art scene through several distinctive features that characterise South Korea, such as the partition of the peninsula, and tradition that endures alongside (hyper) modernity and cutting-edge technology. These features provide some of the clues and visual tools to explore Korean art.

In the special Korean section, you can observe alongside important historical Korean artists, the current quest for identity by a younger generation of artists who are re-directing traditional painting in reaction to tragic historical events (the country divided among other things). These artists are forever scrutinising the countless fractures that divide Korean society (the symbolic monumental installation Flash Wall by Park Kiwon at the entrance of the Grand Palais, for example).

Viewers can also witness the combining of traditional and modern techniques (the use of hanji, Korean rice paper or calligraphy) in Korean abstract painting and, through our performance program Rituals, how artists are seeking to explore the relationship between artistic creation and the notion of the ritual, like religious and traditional rites or habitual banal gestures.

Finally, our Façade projection program shows three Korean artists who have made a video work using cutting-edge technology combined with poetic and imaginary dimensions.    


Tell us about how the special focus will be presented in the fair?

We have many programs dedicated to highlighting the South Korean art scene specifically designed for Art Paris Art Fair 2016.

First of all, there is a Korean galleries platform with 8 galleries from Seoul (313 Art Project, Gana Art, Paik Hae Young, Park Ryu Sook, Simon et Um Gallery), 1 from Daegu (Shilla gallery) and 1 from Paju (Soso Gallery). There is also a performance program with two works on the theme of rituals. These are, When I Become You by Yeesookyung, and Let Us Dance by Hong Young In.

At the entrance to the Grand Palais, a monumental work by Kiwon Park, Flash Wall (2014) will be installed and at night, and an incredible video work by three Korean artists (Kim Joon, Kim Yong Min (so-called Col.l.age + with Jang Sho) and Shim Moon-pil, among six selected artists) will be shown on the façade of the building.

A talk entitled Korean Contemporary Art: Exploring the past to shed light on the present, by the best experts on Korean art will take place at the Korean Cultural Centre in Paris on Friday 1st April, from 6pm to 7:30pm.

Also, VIP pass holders will be able to enjoy a special video installation project entitled Materials by Sulki & Min, in the VIP Ruinart Lounge. This compelling work challenges the essence and values of art by questioning its materiality.

More than 80 Korean artists will be shown—what are some of the highlights visitors can expect to see?

There are some historical figures of Korean abstract art, such as Lee Ungno who produced an innovative body of work inspired by the abstract aspects of calligraphy (Galerie Thessa Herold Gallery). Youn Myeong-ro who constantly renews though his use of materials and gesture to express the traces left in his mind by his own thoughts and Oh Sufan, who works with shapes to try and represent the lively spirit of the Orient (ki) through the most primitive forms (Gana Art Gallery). Kim Tschang-yeul, widely known for his exploration of the theme of water drops (Galerie Baudoin Lebon) and Suh Seung-Won well known for the lyrical composition of his geometric abstract painting (Shilla Gallery).

There are a  number of well known South Korean art stars including Lee Ufan (Galerie Rabouan Moussion), and Lee Bae who uses coal as a symbol of eternity and energy and through his gestures, transforms it into something with a spiritual dimension. Bae Bien-U with pine forests, which constitute the emblematic subject of his photographs representing Korea’s characteristic spiritual world (Galerie RX), Noh Sangkyoon who elaborately glues sequins to cover an entire canvas or object, creating optical illusions which provide different readings of the same piece (Simon Gallery), Chun Kwang Young who composes his form from a myriad of small shaped wrapped in Korean mulberry paper (Sundaram Tagore Gallery) and Choi Jeong Hwa well-known by his monumental kinetic flower or objects of everyday life representing the dark side of a hasty modernization of Korean society (Park Ryu Sook Gallery).

From emerging artists, there will be Park Kiwon (313 Art Project), Kim Joon well regarded for his powerful works of tattooed bodies (Park Ryu Sook Gallery), Chun Kyungwoo (Galerie Andres Thalmann) or Min Jung-Yeon (Galerie Maria Lund), the focus of their work is on intimate and imaginary stories of individual people, also incorporating the notion of time.

I understand you are moderating a discussion panel on Contemporary Korean Art at the Korean cultural centre? Who will be speaking?

Yes, I’m moderating a round table on Contemporary Korean Art on Friday, 1st April at the Korean Cultural Centre in Paris. From South Korea we have invited Kim Sung Won, a professor at Seoul National University of Science & Technology. She was art director for Seoul Cultural Station 284 and Atelier Hermès in Seoul and is a true authority on Korean art scene. She will be joined by Lee Ji-ho, Director of Ungno Lee Museum in Daejeon. She was chief curator of National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art in Korea and has a great knowledge of historical Korean art.

From France, we have two guests, Lóránd Hegyi, Director of the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art Saint-Étienne Métropole who has for many years supported South Korean artists such as Park Seobo, Chung Sang Hwa, Lee Bae, Kim Sooja, Bae Bien-U, Lee Bae and Lee Kang-So, who is currently exhibited in the museum. And Bernard Marcadé, professor at the École nationale supérieure d’arts de Paris-Cergy. A well regarded art critic and curator who works with young Korean artists pursuing their studies in visual arts in France.

The South Korean focus at the Art Paris Art Fair is part of the larger celebrations planned for France-Korea year in 2016. What other contemporary art events or exhibitions will be on display in Paris as part of these celebrations?

Exhibitions and installations of Korean art will be visible throughout the capital during Art Paris Art Fair. Ibu Gallery, in collaboration with RX and Hakgojae galleries, present Standing Man by Chung Hyun, a series of monumental sculptures in the garden of the Palais Royal. The Cernuschi Museum is organising an exhibition of contemporary Korean art from the 1980s onwards along with a number of new rising talents.

Almost 300 events through all artistic fields are planned for France-Korean year 2015-2016. I invite you to take a look on www.anneefrancecoree.fr for further information.



What have you enjoyed most about the experience?

This project has necessitated many preparation trips to Korea, with Guillaume Piens, Director of the Art Paris Art Fair. It has been an honor to introduce him to not only to the South Korean art scene but also wider life and culture. It has been very exciting to work on such a powerful and ambitious artistic program with the professional and attentive support of the whole Art Paris Art Fair team. —[O]

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