Art and Culture
Free art exhibitions this summer!
It's humid and hot out, so why not spend your weekends (or better yet weekdays) under the air conditioner? Stroll over to these exhibitons and check out the latest in the art world here in Seoul this summer. Some are lavish while some of meaningful, but all are free of charge!
The best theater in Seoul
Hedwig: New Makeup
Based on the book by actor John Cameron Mitchell, the musical Hedwig and the Angry Inch, first produced in 1998, tells the story of genderqueer character Hedwig after undergoing a botched genital reconstruction operation. Set in the American South, the cast sings and dances to the music and lyrics of Stephen Trask. After becoming a record-breaking off-Broadway hit, the story of Hedwig was made even more famous in a movie adaption, directed and starred in by John Cameron Mitchell himself. The musical first came to Korea in 2005 and ran for nine seasons, putting on some 1,650 shows and boasting a loyal fan base. This year, following in the footsteps of the 2014 Broadway adaptation, the beloved musical is back bigger than ever in Korea as Hedwig: New Makeup. Like the Broadway adaptation, this version of Hedwig keeps the original storyline intact. And as the word “makeup” implies, the look of the musical has undergone a makeover. The most apparent difference is the size of the venue, as previously, the production was only performed in 400-seat theaters, and this time around the theater has doubled in size. This has some fans wondering if the intimate feeling so unique to this musical will be lost and others wondering what additions will be made to the set. The show will be staged on the set of a hypothetical musical called Junkyard, an additional keyboard will be added to the original four-person band and the music will include contributions from the rock band, YB. Though one
Actors turned directors
It’s not hard to find a familiar name on the back of a director’s chair these days: theatre and movie actors are turning to directing. Actors who can both lead and comprehensively interpret a work are broadening their scopes. Other actors turned directors who either have a play on stage or are planning to do so include Oh Man-seok, Hwang Jung-min, Yang Joon-mo and Park Hee-soon. Oh Man-seok graduated from the Korea National University of Arts and majored in acting. He worked for different plays and musicals, and moved to TV and movies after he became a celebrity. He debuted as a director with the musical Happy Life (2008) and then directed The Harmonium in My Memory (2010−2011), Toxic Hero (2011) and True West (2015), in which he starred as well. Hwang Jung-min, one of the most popular actors in Korea, both directed and starred in the musical Assassins in 2012. Since the musical was first put on stage in Korea back in 2005, its production company has changed three times, with generally unsatisfying results. However, in Hwang’s hands the original’s wit and black comedy came to life. Hwang will both direct and star in The Orchestra Pit, which will open at the end of this year. Interestingly, Hwang and Oh have been both ast in The Orchestra Pit as the conductor. Just like a director, an orchestra conductor needs to be a charismatic leader. The two actors’ interpretations of the character and their cooperation during the production will definitely influence the quality of
Q&A: Musical actress Choi Jung-won
How do you feel about being part of Chicago for so long? Chicago is one of the few musicals that has memorable songs, dances and acting. Since each of those elements depends so much on the actor featured in it, there’s a lot of pressure but also very high reward. For me, personally, I think each season gets better and better. This season, the same cast from last season has returned. How’s that been? We all watched the original Chicago cast when they came to Korea. The performance was amazing. So we really wanted to get back to work again. We had the feeling of, “This is it!” It was inspiring and we were motivated to work on improving in our roles. During the first season, you played Roxie and now, you’re playing Velma. How was the switchover? I started as Roxie Hart (the lead) in 2000 and became Velma Kelly (a supporting role) in 2007. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t disappointed, because I thought, “I can still be Roxie, I could do it so much better if I got another chance.” But as time has passed, I’ve thought about how interesting it is that I’m now playing an actress whose limelight is stolen by Roxie. Being able to experience two different roles within a single musical is a rarity and I’m happy to have the opportunity to do so. Being a part of Chicago for 15 years also means that you’re 15 years older. Is it hard to age as an actress? I’m not sad about it—as a woman, maybe a little bit, but not as an actress. I like my wrinkles as well. I can be Velma and
The best art museums and galleries in Seoul
Dongdaemun Design Plaza(DDP)
Designed by world-renowned architect Zaha Hadid, DDP is a cultural playground that operates 24 hours. The futuristic landmark shines in silver during the day, as the exterior is fashioned out of aluminum panels. The building lights up in the dark and flickers its lights, just like a spaceship that transmits visual signals into space.
National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Seoul
Built in 2013 as an annex building of the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art (MMCA) Gwacheon main location, the Seoul branch is located on the historic site of the former Defense Security Command offices. In addition, the Joseon-era former Office for Royal Genealogy is a traditional building with wooden pillars and graceful tiled roofs, which looks a little out of place next to the museum's modern buildings made of red bricks and mortar. Wedged in between the old and contemporary architecture are scultpure parks, which are also utilized as outdoor exhibition spaces. The museum has eight exhibition halls in total as well as a video library, movie theater, and a food court, so if you have the energy, you can very likely spend the entire day at the musuem. But if you do get tired of looking at art for any reason, popular attractions Gyeongbokgung (Gyeongbok Palace), Bukchon Hanok Village, Samcheong-dong, and Insadong are all just around the corner.
Before walking into the Kukje Gallery, look up: on the roof of the building is "Walking Woman on the Roof," a self-described installation piece by American artist Jonathan Borofsky. The gallery opened in 1982 and has a total of three exhibition halls, which in turn are each divided into smaller exhibition spaces with separators. Kukje Gallery came onto the arts radar in 2003, when video artist Bill Viola and Anish Kapoor each held solo shows here. The museum's core exhibitions highlight internationally acclaimed artists with contemporary art backgrounds.
Seoul Arts Center
The first national multi-complex cultural center set on the outskirts of Gangnam, Seoul Arts Center has an enduring history dating back to 1988. Comprised of a 2,533-seat concert hall, 600-seat chamber music hall, 2200 seat opera theater, and six exhibition halls, the venue is a strong supporter of both the musical and visual arts worlds alike. Keep in mind that younger audiences (ages 7–24) with a taste for orchestra can apply to win free and discounted tickets to rehearsals as well as last minute shows, so feel free to stop by without an occasion or a pre-purchased ticket in hand.
Arario Gallery Seoul
Established by multimillionaire gallerist Kim Chang-il, Arario Gallery first opened its doors in Cheonan in 2012 before moving to its current place in Sogyeok-dong, Seoul. Making The ARTnews "200 Top Collectors" list for 7 years now, the internationally respected gallery boasts three-stories of exhibition space. At times, the basement and the upper levels are separated to showcase two exhibitions with unrelated curatorial goals. Although the gallery’s main interest lies in contemporary art, it branches off to support domestic as well as international artists in their early to mid-careers.
Situated in the residential neighborhood of Tongui-dong, Daelim Museum went under a major renovation under the direction of French architect Vincent Cornu. The exteriors of the buildings are reminiscent of works by Piet Mondrian, but in fact, the stained glass took inspiration from Korean traditional pottery. Initially the museum set its focus on photography, but now has a broader purview, housing various thematic exhibitions on multitudes of genres in just about all forms. Because Daelim Musuem holds two long-running exhibitions per year, you will theoretically have plenty of time, but don't leave it to the last minute—long lines are almost a guarantee on the weekends. The musuem's highlights in recent years include exhibtions on fashion designer Karl Lagerfeld, publisher Gerhard Steidl, and photographer Ryan McGinley. As Daelim Museum is especially popular among the young generation, it is considered to be one of the most public-friendly museums in Seoul.