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Seoul Museum of Art and Leeum Museum of Art Reinterpret Contemporary Art with a Focus on Asia

Top: Main exhibition image of Scoring the Words, the Seoul Museum of Art.
Bottom: Main exhibition image of Cloud Walkers, Leeum Museum of Art.

The wave of South Korea’s cultural influence around the world has been rapidly growing, and this wave also swept the art world when Frieze’s first Asian fair in Seoul happened during the first week of September. Because of these recent changes in the country, South Korea has lately emerged as a potential hub for Asia’s art market after Hong Kong. 

Playing the role of a major Asian art hub is not just about having a strong art ecosystem, great transportation infrastructure, or favorable tax laws for artworks. Rather, becoming one of the global cultural centers focusing on Asia is about having the ability to embrace diversity in Asian culture, understanding the mutual influence of these diversities, and further connecting different Asian arts and cultures into a new framework. 

Two South Korean art museums have opened exhibitions that attempt to build an Asian art scene beyond the country.

Installation view of Suki Seokyeong Kang's 'Black Meander series' in "Scoring the Words" at the Seoul Museum of Art, 2022.

At the Seoul Museum of Art’s Seosomun Main Building, the group exhibition Scoring the Words will be held from September 1 to November 20, 2022. The exhibition will be part of the museum’s exhibition series, which began in 2014, engaging with non-Western regions. This year, the series will focus on Asia.

The exhibition includes drawings, collages, videos, performances, workshops, and radio transmissions created by fourteen artists, curators, researchers, and musicians who are based in Asia or deal with various issues surrounding the Asian region.

The Asian identity addressed in the exhibition is not limited to countries, races, or ethnicities; and neither does it attempt to search for a single regional identity. Rather, the exhibition hopes to become an open space to share thoughts based on the different experiences that can only be encountered in the Asian region and to further question if particular thoughts could be considered “Asian.”

"Scoring the Words" from the Seoul Museum of Art's exhibition.

The exhibition begins with a poem, where each word and phrase is excerpted from works on display or rephrased from the artist’s words in the works. The exhibition is a song for a collective and a language of resilience, and a medium that surveys the collective phenomena happening in Asian culture.

Each participating artist has observed the current political, social, and cultural movements happening in Asia that are vestiges of its dynamic modern history of colonization, authoritarianism, and great development, and created works that encompass these cultural phenomena. Through these artistic practices, the artists examine how Asia could be connected to form a new network and explore the possibility of that connection as a collective.

Korean artists participating in the exhibition are Suki Seokyeong Kang (b. 1977), an artist who reinterprets Korean traditions from a contemporary point of view and redefines painting through video, sculpture, and installation; Young In Hong (b. 1972), who focuses on discussing “equality” and breaking down the power of hierarchy through installation, performance, sound, drawing, and embroidery; Yezoi Hwang (b. 1993), an artist who works with photography to explore the various perspectives of how society views women or love; and A-Melting Pot (Daham Park & Boyeon Marta Shin), a project to create a sound network of experimental/improvised/independent music in Asia.

Other participating artists include CAMP, Hera Chan & Edwin Nasr, Duto Hardono, Dusadee Huntrakul, Sasa Karalic, Jompet Kuswidananto, Tiffany Sia, Chulayarnnon Siriphol, Koki Tanaka, and Jason Wee.

Moon Kyungwon (feat. Jeeu Kim), Promise Park_Yongsan: PLAYSCAPE, 2022, 2 HD films, galvanized steel pipe, aluminum, brass, copper, monitors, 530 x 530x 600 cm, 2min, 5min 20 sec. ©MOON Kyungwon, Designed my Jeeu Kim Moon Kyungwon (feat. Jeeu Kim), 7 PLAYSCAPES: ATLAS, TRAUMA, UTOPIA, PARADOX, PATTERN, PARTICLE, CODE, 2022, Silkscreen, 110 x 110 cm (each). ©MOON Kyungwon, Designed my Jeeu Kim (Photo: Sangtae Kim)

Leeum Museum of Art is holding the exhibition Cloud Walkers from September 2, 2022 to January 8, 2023. The exhibition features forty-five artworks by twenty-four artists from various fields, including contemporary art, architecture, design, music, and literature.

Climate change, pandemics, and war have altered the values that have been inculcated in our society over the past century. With the need to pursue new cultural solidarity from a broad perspective extending beyond regions and countries, Leeum has reconsidered what kind of values Asia should pursue in the future and how to think about a sustainable future through art.

The “cloud” in the exhibition title is a metaphor for the new sociocultural environment which has emerged in the 21st century and connotes the concepts of climate, imagination, and hyperlinks. The exhibition is set as a virtual platform where different ideas of artists can be shared across geopolitical boundaries.

The participating artists are walkers, flâneurs, doers, and dreamers who freely wander this virtual platform. Based on the shared regional experience, which is rapidly shifting in a new direction, the artists envision today’s and tomorrow’s society through a new critical perspective and research ways to enable sustainable coexistence and present a synesthetic world where real and virtual, material and immaterial intersect.

Participating Korean artists include Moon Kyungwon (feat. Jeeu Kim), Bek Hyunjin, Hyun Nahm, and Minki Hong.

Other artists include furniture designer Jinyeong Yeon, stpmj Architecture, fiction writer Kim Cho-yeop, Kengo Kuma, Đoàn Thanh Hà, Kazuya Katagiri, A.A. Murakami, WKND Lab, Yuima Nakazato, Himali Singh Soin, Natasha Tontey, Wong Ping, Lu Yang, motoguo (feat. ejin sha), aaajiao, Tromarama, Samson Young, Tishan Hsu, Guan Xiao, and Lawrence Lek.

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