"The Costume of a Painter" by Bae Joon-sung will be on display at ``The Korean Eye: Fantastic Ordinary'' in July at the Saatchi Gallery in London.
/ Courtesy of Korean Eye
Korea's largest overseas contemporary art exhibition returns to London in July, but this time geared with new tactics ― the first comprehensive English-language book on contemporary art from the country and a fresh army of young artists.
"Korean Eye: Fantastic Ordinary," organized by Standard Chartered and Britain's influential Saatchi Gallery, returns for its second year, after its debut show in 2009 drew crowds of 250,000 in London. This year's exhibition will showcase 12 artists, including the 2009 JoongAng Fine Art Prize Winner Jeong Chae-gang and Perrier Jouet nominated artist Lee Rim.
"A refreshing and arresting selection of works serve as an interesting introduction, not only to Korean contemporary art, but to the general Korean culture and the country," said Nigel Hurst, director of the hosting Saatchi Gallery, at a press conference in Seoul last week.
From sculptures made of melted-down tires by Ji Yong-ho and multi-layered portraitures of Marilyn Monroe and others by Kim Dong-yoo, the complex range of selected artists challenge previous conventions associated with Korean art in the outside world.
Though the pieces may appear to deal with "mundane, day-to-day issues," Hurst said, each of the works confronts the topic in a "quite fantastic fashion."
Other notable pieces are by Jeon Joon-ho, who turns bank notes into hyper-realist art by adding impossible elements. On the back of a $20 bill, the figure of the artist himself can be seen washing the windows of the iconic White House in Washington D.C. Bae Joon-sung looks to combine the fantastical with the real by reinterpreting traditional Victorian-era settings with subtle, belying changes in the canvas.
The artists ― narrowed down from 100 ― were chosen by a board of six curators, including the art specialist Rodman Primack, director of Hanart TZ Gallery Tsong-zung Chang and the art consultant Amelie von Wedel.
"The selected work promises to present an extraordinary exhibition," Hurst said. "But the feeling remains that we're only really scratching the surface in terms of Korean art."
Publishing house SKIRA will release the first English-language "Korean Eye: Contemporary Korean Art" in conjunction with the exhibition. The 400-page comprehensive book features 75 artists with a self-introduction, most of them translated from Korean.
Six features were contributed from art critics and organizers of the show, with essays from editor and Royal College of Art Honorary Fellow Serenella Ciclitira and art historian Lee Ji-yoon _ both members of the curatorial board. The internationally known Youngna Kim, a professor at Seoul National University and published art critic, also contributed a piece.
"It's impossible to really know much about Korean contemporary art," said David Ciclitira, founder of Korean Eye and chairman of the Parallel Media Group. "So [the book] is to show as much diversity as possible."
Although the book will be released on July 5 at the London gallery, it will be available for public sale from October. The book will be sold by Internet shopping giant Amazon.com ($40.95).
Focus on sales has been downplayed this year however, as last year's organizing partner Phillips de Pury & Co. will not be present. The major auction house and dealer managed to sell several works in 2009, but this year's show will maintain a not-for-sale status.
"Korean Eye: Fantastic Ordinary" will be presented from July 3 to July 18 at the Saatchi Gallery, before moving to a venue in Singapore for two-and-a-half weeks in late September. The show will make its way to Korea by Nov. 1, in time for the G-20 Summit in Seoul. For more information visit www.koreaneye.org.