Art & Culture

The latest art exhibitions and theater reviews—plus Seoul’s best galleries and cultural venues

Fashion related exhbitions
Art

Fashion related exhbitions

Todd Selby has collaborated with various mega fashion houses while ADER error is a design collective on the rise here in Seoul. While the two exhibitions may not be directly related to fashion, you might find some interesting inspiration.

Seoul Players One Act Play Project

Seoul Players One Act Play Project

Get ready for a beautiful, crazy, laughter and tear-filled night at the second annual One Act Play Project organized by Seoul Players, an English-speaking theatre company and a network of brilliant, engaging and oh-so-charming performers and directors based in Seoul. This special production has been several months in the making, as the—not one but—two featured one-act plays are completely original—all written, workshopped and produced in our city.  The first piece, Water Weight (directed by John Michaels, written by Daniel Kennedy), unfolds a story of a disturbed woman who crashes her car into a diner. There's a "critical" condition here: there's only one toilet available and how "The Stranger" will gain access to it is all mystery. Rent, Boy (directed by Makrenna Sterdan, written by Raymond C. Salcedo) is a "comedy of errors and unpaid debts" presenting an amusing, nuanced narrative on "youth and bad behavior". Don't miss this one-of-a-kind, high-energy and fun AF act that'll make you think and that you'll remember for a long time. Oh, and you don’t have to worry about language barriers, as the show will be presented in English with Korean subtitles.

Buy tickets
Samramansang
Art

Samramansang

Last September the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art purchased master artist Kim Whanki’s abstract painting Dawn #3 (created in 1964-5) for a price of $1.14 million. The oil painting now holds the title of having the highest price paid by the museum for a single work of art. Dawn #3, along with 120 of the 932 art works that have been collected from 2013 to 2016 (excluding pieces that have already been exhibited), are what make up the narrative of the latest exhibition at MMCA Seoul. The title of the grandiose exhibition showcasing its recent highest-bid purchase is Samramansang: From Kim Whanki to Yang Fudong. Samramansang, which can be interpreted as “All things and phenomena of the universe,” is an exhibition that reflects the changes and embraces the diversity of contemporary art. One will be able to feel the effects of political and social transformations in the art works as artists shift away from formalism and traditional mediums often found in Korean art history. Through this exhibition, MMCA aims to provide an overall understanding of the characteristics, aesthetics and concept of contemporary Korean art. The exhibitions as a whole is well devised into 5 sections, each focusing on a specific theme. Although all pieces taking part in the exhibition is displayed in an engaging manner (with some pieces being highly interactive), it is easy to get lost in the concept of each overall theme. It’s surely an ambitious exhibition by MMCA just by seeing the high

Numen/For Use: Void
Art

Numen/For Use: Void

They say it'll serve as a great stimulus for couples on a date—while that may be considerably so, the transcending logic and overwhelming beauty presented by Numen / For Use exhibit at Storage by Hyundai Card is too brilliant to go unnoticed. From March 24th to June 18th, Storage presents Numen / For Use, an artist trio (Sven Jonke, Christoph Katzler, Nikola Radeljkovic) working in the fields of conceptual art, theatre scenography and industrial/spatial design. While comprised of only 3 main works, this powerful presentation and creative study will easily have you leave with a more enlightened perception of space and your physical and metaphysical relationship to it. The exhibition begins with a mock-up of Void and a video projection of Numen / For Use's previous works. Hinting at the actual scales in which these the trio plays and produces, these images/prototypes allow you a peek at the exhaustive worlds of the artists.  Proceeding to String model 2x2 (2015), a cube structure constructed with clear vinyl and blue strings, is a miniature version of the original balloon-like installation. At its most deflated point, the model is devoid of a volume or space, with all of the strings tangled up and vinyl resting lifelessly; as soon as it begins to get inflated, the sculpture begins to take form with the blue strings serving as a systematically gridded endoskeleton. This whole process can be controlled/manipulated with a tap of a red switch which inflates the balloon into a pe

YOUTH
Art

YOUTH

Who are the leaders, consumers and trendsetters of the future? What is their current culture, and what do they represent? Why or how did these specific cultures come about? The YOUTH exhibition which has recently opened at Hannam-dong’s D Museum deals with such sociological and philosophical questions. Focused on youthcultures from around the world, it presents works created by more than 28 young artists. Its aim is to portray the youths' continuous struggles and fight for expression in hopes for a better life. As cliché as it may sound, you will be delighted to see authentic ways these young artists formulated their unique ideas along with D Museum’s interactive curation. There are two parts to the exhibition. The first section on the basement floor reflects on looking inside the minds of youths and their fight to liberate the expressions hidden within them. Once you descend to the basement gallery, the atmosphere suddenly changes — to dark and powerful, something similar to that of a prison, with the interior designed to resemble a forgotten construction site. Finding your way through the maze of metal bars and fences, what you will be exposed to is such rawness exuded by the artworks. This whole experience could come off as a statement of 'devolution' of society, characterized by its vulgar visuals and harsh words. Yet, what it ultimately suggests is a reflection of the often stigmatized process of growth and the turbulent agony that lies within. As you ascend to the se

Time Out says
  • 3 out of 5 stars

Must-see art shows

Seung-taek Lee in Venice
Art

Seung-taek Lee in Venice

Sculptor, installation artist and performance artist Lee Seung-taek is one of Korea’s first generation pioneers of what is commonly called experimental art. With the focus on the notion of ‘anti-art,' Lee's most iconic pieces incorporate humble materials such as paper and rocks. After a showing at New York City's Lévy Gorvy Gallery, Lee’s exhibition has continued on to a large-scale solo display at the internationally acclaimed Venice Biennale from May 8th to June 28th while at the same time being showcased at Seoul's Gallery Hyundai. The approximately 50 pieces making up the current exhibit in Seoul include the iconic, tied stone sculptures created during the 50’s and 80’s along with installations, video works and photographs.

Jang Sup: Painting as Tangible Vestige of History
Art

Jang Sup: Painting as Tangible Vestige of History

Painter Son Jang Sup’s dimly colored paintings of nature will be on display at the Hakgojae Gallery until Jun 18th. The collection being showcased is mainly comprised of Son's recent works of the 2000’s. Created by the artist who puts humanity as his main focus, Son's charmingly rough paintings of mountains and trees serve a reflection of people and their capability of stern silence. Far from an implication of passivity or incapacity, the concept of silence here represents the most powerful form of resistance and the most determined and energetic force generated by people. Son's dynamic depictions of landscapes and nature exude wonderfully earthy qualities offering tranquil and spiritual vibes that once again imply the calm yet powerful notion of resistance.

Klimt Inside
Art

Klimt Inside

Taking a new approach using new media and technology, S-Factory in Seongsu-dong presents a modern media art exhibition of the celebrated Viennese artist Gustav Klimt. Unlike the traditional method—of viewing renowned paintings hung on museum walls—this exhibition allows us to experience the works of art complimented by music, lighting, LED screens and more. Divided into 6 sections (End of Century, Ver Sacrum, Women, Stocklet Frieze, Later Colors and Kiss), each section offers unique insight into the Austrian symbolist painter. Outside the main exhibition, visitors can experience a virtual reality of a Stoclet Palace dining room decorated with an artwork which Klimt was commissioned to create.

YOUTH
Art

YOUTH

Who are the leaders, consumers and trendsetters of the future? What is their current culture, and what do they represent? Why or how did these specific cultures come about? The YOUTH exhibition which has recently opened at Hannam-dong’s D Museum deals with such sociological and philosophical questions. Focused on youthcultures from around the world, it presents works created by more than 28 young artists. Its aim is to portray the youths' continuous struggles and fight for expression in hopes for a better life. As cliché as it may sound, you will be delighted to see authentic ways these young artists formulated their unique ideas along with D Museum’s interactive curation. There are two parts to the exhibition. The first section on the basement floor reflects on looking inside the minds of youths and their fight to liberate the expressions hidden within them. Once you descend to the basement gallery, the atmosphere suddenly changes — to dark and powerful, something similar to that of a prison, with the interior designed to resemble a forgotten construction site. Finding your way through the maze of metal bars and fences, what you will be exposed to is such rawness exuded by the artworks. This whole experience could come off as a statement of 'devolution' of society, characterized by its vulgar visuals and harsh words. Yet, what it ultimately suggests is a reflection of the often stigmatized process of growth and the turbulent agony that lies within. As you ascend to the se

Time Out says
  • 3 out of 5 stars
Pink Poison
Art

Pink Poison

Arario Museum is displaying the works of Minjeong Koo and Rae Shim as part of their ‘Project Underground’ with the aim to discover and introduce rising artists. The title of the exhibition, Pink Poison, refers to the pink-colored digestive medicine Pepto-Bismol, suggesting that the uneasy feelings of deception can be a catalyst for art (as the charmingly baby-pink medicinal liquid may make you want to vomit when over-consumed).  The exhibition begins with Rae Sim’s black and white paintings in a maze-like format. The drawings depict extremely vulgar scenes of violence, amputation and even cannibalism. Minjeong Koo’s colorful stuffed dolls (which seem like a living organism) and painting at the end recreates the physical space of the gallery to put the audience inside of a "mother’s womb."  Pink Poison is the second of ‘Project Underground’ — the museum is set to open the space for up-and-coming artists up to four times a year.

The best theater in Seoul

Hedwig: New Makeup
Theater

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
Theater

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
Theater

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

Members of idol bands now on stage 5
Theater

Members of idol bands now on stage 5

Arts & Culture columnist Ji Hye-won recommend

SEE MORE GREAT THEATER IN SEOUL

The best art museums and galleries in Seoul

Dongdaemun Design Plaza(DDP)
Museums

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
Museums

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.

Kukje Gallery
Art

Kukje Gallery

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
Museums

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
Art

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.

Daelim Museum
Museums

Daelim Museum

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.

See more art galleries and museums in Seoul