Wednesday 22 July 2009
A pleasant late start to the morning. Im Jeongae from London’s I-MYU gallery happens to be in town, looking after the show of British artists at the Total Museum. We cruise the Samcheong-dong galleries together as the heat of the day becomes slightly cooler, and the daylight light becomes milkier. People are staring at the rooftops – and we realise that it’s the partial eclipse of the sun which was on the news that morning.
Up to Pyeongchang-dong to the Total Museum: London Calling. As well as showing Korean and other Asian artists in their London gallery space, I-MYU also bring British artists to Asia. The Pyeongchangdong gallery, built over several floors, clings to the side of the hill, and the cliff face forms part of the internal structure. Once again, I’m amazed at the amount of public and private space in Korea that is devoted to art. Some of the installations in this particular exhibition need the space: particularly Nathaniel Rackowe’s Black Shed, and Fiona Banner’s Bird – which is the tail fin from a Jaguar fighter plane. It is the more conventional work by Dryden Goodwin (Red Studies) which greets you as you enter, and which adorns the official postcard of the show. More unassuming, but nevertheless more impactful. The exhibition closes on 26 July.
It’s a wealthy part of town. The wind gently rustles the trees in the well-kept gardens. The local restaurant is a slick pasta place perched on the hillside. Across the valley there’s a designer house which looks like it must be inhabited by a teletubby. Down the road is the gallery which Chun Doo-hwan’s son is setting up. Across the road is the Gana art centre and auction house. It’s peaceful, and feels like Seoul is miles away. The pasta and “Wine Ade” for lunch transports you to the mediterranean.
A short cab ride away is Buam-dong, home of the Whanki museum. The museum is closed for refurbishment right now. When it was built, around 15 years ago, the standard voltage for mains electricity in Korea was 110 volts; now it’s 240 volts. So soon after being built, the museum needs rewiring. It will reopen in the Autumn, but in the meanwhile the coffee and gift shop is still open.
The taxi back to Insadong soon grinds to a halt in the Seoul traffic, so I get out and walk. I have a quick browse in Seoul Selection on the way and, unusually, buy nothing. But my mental wishlist has grown. I have been killing time before my next appointment: tea with Brother Anthony in his rooms at Sogang University. I take the subway to Sincheon, and locate his building.
After tea, a subway ride to Ichon brings me to the National Museum, home of so many of the country’s treasures. I take advantage of the late opening hours on Wednesday (till 9pm). Unfortunately one or two of the exhibition galleries are closed at the moment, but there’s still more than enough to see – the spectacular Silla dynasty gold crown, the pensive boddhisatva (brother to the one shown in Brussels earlier this year), beautiful ceramics, intricate ink paintings – all for free, in a spacious and well-laid out building. The gift shop is a good place to browse, too.
To Itaewon, where I tag along with London bookbinder Young-shin to visit her sculptor friend Jin and others for dinner. A fine example of last-minute Korean hospitality.
- Total Museum Website and Facebook page
- National Museum of Korea website
- Solar Art Studio – Jin Lee’s website
Index of the 2009 Travel Diary:
- 1: Arrival
- 2: Suwon and Prince Sado’s tomb
- 3: 20th century art and history
- 3a: Interview with Gen Paik Sun-yup
- 4: Recuperation and the Kilburn Art Space
- 5: Bulguksa and Seokkuram
- 6: Haeinsa
- 7: Korea House
- => 8: Galleries old and new
- 8a: Interview with Brother Anthony of Taizé
- 9: Hails and farewells
- 10: Reflections