Seoul had initially announced that it would cease operations at the Nam June Paik Memorial House, an institution under the Seoul Museum of Art (SeMA), starting in November. However, on October 26, it reversed this decision and announced it would revitalize the memorial.
This decision emerged as part of Seoul Mayor Oh Se-hoon’s “Cutting Unnecessary Projects” initiative, which sought to eliminate inefficient and conventional government projects. Directives were issued to review cultural facilities and institutions that showed a lackluster performance concerning the budget allocated for cultural projects. The Seoul Museum of Art identified the Nam June Paik Memorial House as its top priority for streamlining, and as a result, the city approved the memorial’s closure.
This decision, however, was met with strong criticism from the cultural community. As the backlash against the decision to suspend the memorial’s operation grew, the city of Seoul ultimately reversed its initial decision.
The Nam June Paik Memorial House, which opened its doors in Changsin-dong, Jongno-gu, Seoul, in March 2017, was established to exhibit, research, and educate about the artist’s achievements. However, its exhibition and content have remained unchanged from its opening, and a lack of new programs led to very few visitors.
The Nam June Paik Memorial House isn’t the artist’s birthplace. Still, it was the area where Nam June Paik spent his school days from 5 in 1937 until he turned 18 in 1950 for thirteen years. Before leaving Korea, Nam June Paik grew up in Changsin-dong, and it was here that the foundation of his artistic world was formed.
The art world reacted to the city’s decision by calling it a failure to recognize the importance of the artist, who made a significant contribution to global contemporary art history, and criticized the decision for not considering the historical and spatial significance of the site.
Nam June Paik, a renowned video artist on the world stage, has significantly contributed to experimental music, electronic art, kinetic art, and other areas of the global art scene. However, considering his reputation, his achievements are still undervalued, and there remains a considerable deficiency in research. While the decision to suspend the operation of the Nam June Paik Memorial House has fortunately been reversed, it underscores the lack of proper understanding of Nam June Paik’s legacy by domestic art institutions and the government.
Seoul intends to enhance the environmentally disadvantageous conditions of the Memorial House and embark on a program to enhance its vitality. The plan is to transform the house into a creative space embodying the spirit of the artist and commemorating Nam June Paik.