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Sesame and Saatchi – two contemporary Korean art exhibitions

Jang Seung-hyo: Mad about You (detail)
Jang Seung-hyo: Mad about You (detail)

The first hanging of the Moon Generation exhibition, for all the fanfares which went with it, was disappointing. Single works by different artists can work in a room together – Christie’s showed us how with their recent photography sale – but the Moon Generation curator’s first shot at doing so failed. In part, this was because only half the works were in the Saatchi Gallery, and most of the rest were in the Phillips de Pury salerooms, so it was hard to get a story going.

A week or so into the show, the two halves were reunited in the Saatchi Gallery, and the opportunity was taken to rectify some of the shortcomings of the previous configurations.

Lee Hyung-koo, Bahk Seong-ghi, Debbie Han
L to R: Lee Hyun-koo Homo Animatus; Bahk Seong-ghi Point of View; Debbie Han Secretive Three Graces

Most obviously, Lee Hyung-koo’s Homo Animatus was brought down from the rafters and hung at eye level against a black background – as intended by the artist. Suddenly, it was attracting attention, whereas previously it was ignored. Lee Dong-wook’s samurai sword, its handle made of of tiny androgynous homunculi, was strategically placed halfway down a long wall where it could breathe better. The hybrid classical beauty in Debbie Han’s Three Graces were juxtaposed with the voyeuristic pop-art fun of Cho Hoo’s mini-skirted girl.

Debbie Han, Cho Hoon
Debbie Han: Secretive Three Graces; Cho Hoon: Ecstasy

While most of the works in the first room remained where they had been in the first week, the removal of two of the works into the second room made the whole exhibition work better. Somehow, the whole show felt a lot more balanced. Whether the pricing point for some of the work – for artists barely known in the UK – will secure the hoped-for sales remains to be seen, but the exhibition has now been extended until September.

Luca Sangjun Kim: Dawn

A show which unfortunately closed just as the Saatchi was having its rehang was Ideal Worlds in the Sesame Gallery in Islington. Three artists featured: Luca Sangjun Kim, Gee Song and Koh Sang-woo. All have been seen recently in London. One of Koh’s works was in the recent Christie’s sale, while Gee Song and Luca Sangjun Kim have been exhibited at the Korean Cultural Centre, the Jerwood Space and the Bargehouse. All three artists are far more affordable than most of those in the Moon Generation show, but the works are no less appealing.

Gee Song: Sandhill
Gee Song: Sandhill

Gee Song’s work was selected for inclusion at the independently curated Entry Forms exhibition at the Cultural Centre last year. Her paintings show an innocent nostalgia for holiday destinations. Luca Sangjun Kim builds up layer upon layer of paint then scrapes the canvas to reveal the many colours, but leaves thick sculptural ridges at the edge of the composition. His Starry Night, Dawn and Eclipse all repay much attention, but need space in which to appreciate them.

The most popular artist in the Sesame show – most of his works sold – was Koh Sang-woo. His luminous negative photographs of intertwined lovers are immediately appealing. The female model is a KBS newsreader who went against convention by marrying an impoverished artist rather than hooking up with a wealthy chaebol boss. Her story caught Koh’s imagination, and Koh asked her and her husband to act as models in his romantic set of photos. It is said that his solo show of these works at Sun Contemporary in Seoul was not popular with the newsreader’s employers, who did not like the fact that she was appearing as nature made her – and they tried unsuccessfully to close the show. An interview with Koh can be found on KBS here.

Sesame’s Ideal Worlds closed on 4 July
Moon Generation has been extended until September


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