Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Gustav Klimt at Seoul Arts Center - Pompidou at SeMA

Ten years ago, "major" exhibitions in Seoul featuring big names from the past would propose a couple of works by the Great Master submerged by flocks of side dishes from relatively unknown and distant relatives.

Nowadays, Seoulites can enjoy simultaneously major collections with consistant editorial lines from the Pompidou Center at the SeMA and from Gustav Klimt at the Seoul Arts Center*. They can and they do : in spite of their relatively high entrance fees the shows are drawing masses of visitors not necessarily used to this kind of entertainment.

Seoul has definitely become an international art hub well beyond its national treasures and its traditional position on the contemporary art scene, leveraging on new landmarks (National Museum, Leeum**...), but also on stronger ties with fellow Asian countries (ie always something stimulating to discover at the National Museum in Yongsan), as well as with new European partners (ie for the Monet exhibition a couple of years ago, Pompidou and Vienna today).

I bump into Klimt every now and then, and each time from a closer range. Now we've met in my three favorite cities : in NYC a quarter of a century ago ("Vienna 1900: Art, Architecture & Design" - MOMA 1986), Vienna was the star, in Paris more recently ("Vienne 1900" - Grand Palais 2005), the focus was on four artists (Klimt, Schiele, Moser, and Kokoschka), but today in Seoul, Gustav rules the show.

"Gustav Klimt in Korea 2009" justifies its name : the artist is there, drawing a stimulating map of his own life and mind, displaying a collection of beautiful portraits, meeting a new public hungry for change in another young century.

I still prefer Egon Schiele, and still wonder how far he would have gone if the Spanish Flu didn't claim him that early... But that's another story.

Seoul, as a young and promising art center, is also threatened by a global menace, and already feeling the pinch of the crisis (galleries are struggling, auctions slumping, and I'm not sure the next KIAF will be as great as the 2008 edition). But it shall overcome, because this city has embraced art for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer.

I haven't made up mind mind on the "better or worse" dimension of Rem Koolhaas' shapeshifting of an installation under construction on the Gyeonghuigung's lawn. It keeps evolving each time I look through my windows. First came the massive blocks, then those giant pivoting steel PlayStation buttons, and now this screen covering the exhibition space until its inauguration (April 25th)... But as far as the "richer or poorer" dimension is concerned, the name could be a clue : when a "Prada Transformer" is coming to town, you know the era of art hype is not totally over.


* hurry up for Pompom :

. "Centre Georges Pompidou Exhibition "Heaven for Artists""(Seoul Museum of Art - 20081222 - 20090322)
. "
Gustav Klimt in Korea 2009" - SAC / Hangaram Art Museum (20090202-0515)
** see my blogule (French version) : "Leeum ad vitam aeternam"

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