Art & Culture

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

2017 Jisan Valley Rock Music & Arts Festival
Art

2017 Jisan Valley Rock Music & Arts Festival

Seendosi, Yun Sabi, Hong Seung Hye, NOH Sangho, Osang Gwon and Kwon Yongju—these trendsetting, boundary-redefining artists are bringing dreamy, surreal motifs into reality on the lush green plain of Jisan. Don’t miss the chance to immerse yourself in music, nature and oh-so-intriguing collection of art. We're giving away a few tickets, so make sure you check Time Out Seoul's Facebook page, as well.

Karim Rashid: Design Your Self
Art

Karim Rashid: Design Your Self

He is the mastermind behind the Umbra Garbino trash can, the Bobble water bottle and Kenzo’s Amour perfume bottle. All 3 of these well-designed products are all bold, colorful and organic, characterizing the designer and his style. He is a true patron of ‘designocracy,’ a portmanteau of design and democracy, which signifies constantly exploring new ways of making good design available for everyone. Above all, he is known as the "man in pink." This key figure in today’s design world is star-designer Karim Rashid, whose solo exhibition Seoul Art Center has the privilege of showcasing until October 30th. The exhibition entitled Design Your Self is composed of 7 different sections beginning with a visual display of Karim Rashid’s history at ‘Karimstory’ and continuing on to ‘Beautification of Life’, ‘Hall of Globalove’, ‘Into the Scape’, ‘Digipop’, ‘Era of Mass Production’ and last but not least ‘Mission for the Humanity’. With over 350 pieces of works including furniture, sketches, sculptures and objets d’art, Design Your Self is an intensely dense show with an abundance of colors and fluid shapes. Every corner of halls is covered with what can be described as visual bliss. From the wall papers that were designed by Karim Rashid himself (some of which resemble Egyptian hieroglyphs) to the many chairs each with a distinct aesthetic, you will be bombarded with vivid colors and even the all-familiar plastic shine. Karim Rashid may not be a household name but many of us have perha

Fashion related exhibitions
Art

Fashion related exhibitions

Todd Selby has collaborated with various mega fashion houses while Louis Vuitton has opened a grand scale exhibition showing off their heritage. While the two exhibitions may not be directly related to fashion, you might find some interesting inspiration.

Free art exhibitions this summer!
Art

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!

Korean artists' solo exhibitions
Art

Korean artists' solo exhibitions

From digital collage to landscape paintings, Korean artists are taking the stage at some of Seoul's well known galleries. You might want to take a brief visit to see all the different techniques and mediums that are being used by these local artists.

Must-see art shows

Gridded Currents
Art

Gridded Currents

Ever heard about land reclamation? It’s the process of adding land on coastlines or even creating new islands in the ocean. It’s a phenomenon that almost all Singaporeans know about as their limited city-state has been expanding ever since its first project back in 1822 at South Boat Quay. Although we might not regard the vast waters to be a part of our direct urban environment, our seas and oceans have been reshaped by modernization just like our lands. Gridded Currents at Kukje Gallery is an exhibition that explores the changes cause by capitalistic agenda’s through various works done by four different artists (Nina Canell, Charles Lim Yi Yong, Runo Lagomarsino and Ayoung Kim). Of the collection is Nina Canell’s Sedding Sheaths, which are debris-like sculptures scattered around the gallery floor. Collected from a recycling plant, the remnants of the left over fibre-optic cables look alien to us as these are objects that are extremely distant from our realities. Yet, the irony is that these are the cables hidden deep beneath the oceans that keep us constantly connected with the rest of the world. Charles Lim Yi Yong’s SEA STATE series depicts the changes coastlines of his hometown Singapore. A film piece shown on the second floor of the gallery is a mesmerizing, slow paced video that focuses on the construction of new land. Watching the tons of sand from containerships being passing through the conveyor belts and thrown onto what is new land, has an intriguingly calming effe

Highlights by Cartier
Art

Highlights by Cartier

Unlike what the title may suggest, Highlights Cartier isn’t exactly an exhibition highlighting Cartier’s legacy; Rather, it showcases a collection of Fondation Cartier pour l’art contemporain’, an art patronage founded in 1984 which currently contains over 1,500 pieces created by more than 150 artists from around 50 different countries. Most of these pieces have been commissioned by Cartier for their various exhibitions.  Highlights marks the first occasion of the foundation's overseas exhibit. Fondation Cartier  brought with them around 100 works from its collection in Paris, while a number of works by Korean artists Park Chan-wook, Park Chan-kyong, Lee Bul and Sunwoo Hoon have been commissioned for the occasion. Co-curated by Seoul Museum of Art (SeMA) and Fondation Cartier, the 3-floor exhibition taking up the majority of SeMA’s exhibition space, will touch upon a variety of social issues related to economy, ecology and migration. Because the showcased volume of collection can be rather overwhelming, it may be a good idea to take a few days to view the whole exhibition, as it truly deserves.

PIXAR 30 Years of Animation

PIXAR 30 Years of Animation

Just like all of Pixar’s blockbuster films, the on-going exhibition at the DDP celebrating Pixar’s 30th anniversary is a must visit for children and child-at-heart adults alike. Not only will this effervescent exhibition stir some dormant childhood memories, you will get a sneak-peek into the creative process of the animation giant. While some 500 works are on display, Maren Jones (director of Pixar’s exhibition program) mentioned that the exhibit showcases only "the tiniest fraction” of what they hold in their warehouse. Still, Pixar: 30 Years of Animation will have you in complete awe and appreciation as you grasp a general but detailed overview of Pixar’s inner workings—one that is beyond our imaginations. The exhibition begins with a pastel drawing of the iconic Pixar mascot, Luxo Jr. giving you a light welcome like all Pixar films where the lamp coming jumping in. It continues onto a description of Pixar’s creative process, paired with illustrations, videos and models—just enough so that you don’t have to read the text-heavy timeline. Once you have a good understanding of the chronological sequence of the creative process the Pixar artists, designers and developers go through, the rest is all fun and play. Each proceeding section of the exhibition is focused on a feature film (the first being Toy Story of course). The section however has no predetermined sequence to view the artworks. This freedom rather helps us forget about 'order' and open our creative minds to obse

Time Out says
  • 3 out of 5 stars
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Louis Vuitton: Volez, Voguez, Voyagez

Louis Vuitton: Volez, Voguez, Voyagez

Check out the gray Trianon canvas, the Louis Vuitton trunk (1854) that preceded the designs of the very eminent Damier and Monogram patterns. It was the first of its kind during that time, an innovation like no other, noted for being the first trunk with a flat top. This innovative flat top provided stackablity unlike the usual rounded tops of that era (designed to roll off rainwater), while the grey was the color of beauty at the time in Paris. This grey Trianon canvas trunk is in display at Louis Vuitton’s second exhibition in Seoul and they are here to introduce their historic legacy in creating and innovating objects of storage. It is an exhilarating exhibition that walks you through the archives of the brand in ways that depict the story of affluent traveling from back in the day. It is obvious that Louis Vuitton made the effort to exuding their dignified image through Volez, Voguez, Voyagez by putting the notion of luxury and heritage first. Having shown in Tokyo, Hong Kong, London and Paris before arriving in Seoul, the exhibition tells the chronological story of Louis Vuitton’s journey through 10 visually stunning chapters, with the last one dedicated to Korea. The level of finesse found throughout the exhibition speaks of the brand’s dedication to nobility, making you gasp with awe upon entering each section. The rooms are all filled with historic glamor from floor to ceiling with each one having its own unique ambiance. Your spirits will feel uplifted, making you f

Time Out says
  • 4 out of 5 stars
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NOH Suntag: The 4th Wall: The State of Emergency II
Art

NOH Suntag: The 4th Wall: The State of Emergency II

“We live today in a society where people press the shutter on their camera more often than they lift their spoon to eat in a day. As a field in its infancy in terms of the history of representation, how has photography achieved such monstrous power? What can the photography say in scenes of conflict and clashing? Whose side will it fall on? How will it be used? More and more, the photograph is becoming a piercing presence in such scenes although what “scene” means for the photograph is becoming more and more unclear.” – Noh Suntag Noh Suntag, who held his first showing of The 4th Wall: The State of Emergency series at the Kunstverein in Stuttgart back in 2008, portrayed the curious and distorted conflicts generated by the division of North and South Korea. With photography as his main medium, Noh discovers the dark and hidden aesthetics within Korea's political environment and the effects they've had on the people's lives. The sentimental photographs showcased in his new exhibition at Art Sonje Center, entitled The 4th Wall: The State of Emergency II, includes visual narratives of the recent political scandal that has shaken the country as a whole. Through his photographic work, Noh constantly develops new ways of portraying how society “functions through malfunctioning.” Noh states that the division (a malfunction of sort) does not merely occupy specific time and space in Korea, it permeates everywhere, simultaneously instigating memory and oblivion, security and anxiety.

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