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Art’s beauty is in the eye of the beholder

Museum SAN brings together disparate forms in new exhibits
Apr 14,2018
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Ordinary objects have been transformed into art and put on display at Museum SAN’s exhibition, “Art of Everyday: Object” to run through Sept. 2. [YOON SO-YEON]
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From left: Artist Park In-hyun’s installation made with colorful umbrellas “Missing ‘The Umbrellas of Cherbourg.’” welcomes visitors to the object exhibition. Sculptures by 16 artists are on display at “Looking into Korean Art, Part 3 - Sculpture.” At right, “Sochunh” by Kwon Jin Kyu is on display. [YOON SO-YEON, MUSEUM SAN]
What qualifies as a piece of art? Artists have been trying to answer this and similar questions for centuries, each with an answer as elaborate as the next. One particular question posed by French artist Marcel Duchamp in the 1910s has been a source of great debate: Does an artwork have to be made by an artist?

Although this question may sound simple at its face, it was a hot topic in the art world for decades. The time in which Duchamp posed the query was the era when industrial mass-production was beginning to replace manual manufacturing. So, in 1917, when Duchamp decided to exhibit a piece titled “Fountain,” which was a toilet bowl that he had signed, the art world went into a frenzy, as people started to question what actually made art, art. Did a piece have to actually be made by an artist, or could new value be found within something that’s already been made?

In celebration of its fifth year, Museum SAN in Wonju, Gangwon, is presenting two exhibitions that stand on opposite ends of an artistic spectrum. While one exhibit features sculptures made by contemporary Korean artists, another taking place next door features works that have been created for a purpose, but are presented in a different light by people.

While “Art of Everyday: Object” displays items that have been given a new meaning from their original purpose through creative minds, the “Looking into Korean Art, Part 3 - Sculpture” exhibits works that have been carved and shaped by professional artists who have influenced the modern Korean art scene. Inside one exhibit stands works created by the hands of artists, while in the other, objects that were already made are reimagined.

“This year marks the museum’s fifth year, and so we thought about what could make an exhibition more special,” said Choi Yong-june, chief curator of the museum. “We want our museum to be a place where visitors can participate, and so we brought together an exhibition that brings the idea of art into our daily lives. They are here to enjoy art, and they will see that art is [all around] them.”

Inside “Art of Everyday: Object” are common products that have been turned into works of art by 40 people from all walks of life, some of whom have never created an art piece in their lives. A bunch of common umbrellas sold on the streets put together with a little bit of imagination becomes Park In-hyun’s work, “Missing ‘The Umbrellas of Cherbourg.’” And when Tadao Ando decided to put a small paper model of his architecture inside a box, it became a work he named the “Watch Box.”

“Some may ask if these ready-made things should be called art,” said Oh Soo-kyung, curator of the exhibition. “But the biggest difference in art with the past is that ideas have been infused into art, and so it became possible for us to view our everyday lives in respect of art. So if we see something with an open mind, then everything has the potential to become art.”

Having taken a friendly and light approach to the idea of art with familiar things that we see in our bedrooms and living rooms, a totally different air of tranquility overtakes the visitors inside the sculpture exhibition. Featuring sculptures by 16 renowned artists from the local modern art scene, the exhibit takes on a deep and profound ambience that leaves visitors awestruck.

“The artists at this exhibition are exemplary figures in modern Korea,” said Noh Eun-sil who curated the sculpture exhibition. “We have put together sculptures mainly from the 1920s to the 1960s, like an overview of Korean sculpture within this space. We’ve organized it as if the visitors feel like they are walking through a park or a plaza with sculptures, with music in the background to add to the mood.”

Terracotta bust “Sochunh” by Kwon Jin Kyu, Kim Yun-shin’s wooden work “Divided into Two, Dividing One,” a stone and steel tower named “Accumulation” by Park Suk-won and a welded steel work by John Pai dubbed “Convolution” are some of works that visitors can see. Each sculptor shows off their own creativity with various materials such as stone, wood and metal. Although most of the forms do not directly resemble an object, visitors can see how abstract ideas can be expressed onto real materials after reading the provided guide books and explanations.

“Inside the broad category of sculpture are installations and objects displayed at the other exhibition. By taking a look at both exhibitions, viewers will be able to take a step closer to the world of three-dimensional art,” said curator Noh.

Both exhibits will be held until Sept. 2. For more information, visit www.museumsan.org.

BY YOON SO-YEON [yoon.soyeon@joongang.co.kr]