Korean contemporary art

How many of you have you ever been in a contemporary art museum or at least at a gallery? I went. It was amazing. Well, it was a long time ago. I like talking about art. It’s a unique experience. The way I see it, a work of art is like a piece of the artist’s thoughts and also a piece of this world.

The second question: How many of you have you ever  heard about Shin Yun-Bok? If you saw the drama; Painter of the Wind, you  probably know something about him. How about Kim Dong-Ho, Jeong Seon or Choi Buk? The answer is: They were painters, Korean painters.

Maybe the ones who are interested in Korean culture know more about it. If not, I strongly recommend you search their lives and works. Their works of art are really nice and  there is a lot of  information about Korean lifestyle and society.

In this article I don’t want to focus on pre-Joseon or Joseon art. I would like to show you some of contemporary Korean artist.

First of all, what is the meaning of contemporary art?

Contemporary art

Contemporary art means the art produced at the present point in time. Also, it’s a similar term to Modern art and Postmodern art.

Modern art means the artistic work produced during the period extending roughly from the 1860’s to the 1970’s, and denotes the style and philosophy of art produced during that era. The term is usually associated with art in which the traditions of the past have been thrown aside in the spirit of experimentation.

Postmodern art is a body of artistic movements that sought to contradict some aspects of modernism or to have emerged or developed in its aftermath. These movements are: Intermedia, Installations art, Conceptual art and Multimedia, particulary those involving video are described as postmodernism.

These definitions are hard to”digest”, aren’t they? I think the same. However, for understanding a work of art you need to know what that means, what is the definition. I think this is a necessary evil (hahaha).

While I was reading for this article, I found a really good question: What is the difference between culture and identity?  In the book  The Korean Eye, I found the answer: “Culture is only possible when it is shared by at least two people, an identity is only visible when one person is differentiated from another. Despite their inherent differences, culture and identity are inseparable in contemporary art.(Lee Dae Hyun) The reason is that  contemporary art wants to be different but, in the same time, wants to communicate with the people. Well, the art is made by the people for people.

I think, nowadays, there is that strong feeling to express ourselves in every kind of way: through pictures, through paintings, through writing. We want to escape from our stressful existence so, we like to make our world and we invite other to join in, by posting on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or for really talented people, on expositions in art galleries.


           The Korean aesthetics

Through this small research I found a really interesting word: KOREANESS.

Lee Dae Hyun explains this word as a signature that departs strongly from the traits of the past. So Korean contemporary art is still framed within the range of traditional art and is stuck within the boundaries of specific topics and conventional formalities. ”Imagine the fruit( the contemporary) without the root( the past) or vice versa.”( Lee Dae Hyun)

Korean aesthetics is seen as “the aesthetics of the curvy line”.  It’s different from the Chinese, where the form is emphasized or the Japanese, where the color is the key. So, Korean art is very different from other East Asian countries.

Ko Yu Seop asserts that the Korean aesthetics is centered on ideas of imagination and conception to overcome the limit of formal aesthetics.

Kim Won Ryong argues that the root of Korean art is the harmony between the art of nature and the man-made and it depicts the ordinary and features of traditional art.

In conclusion, the contemporary Korean art is still linked with the past.

So, the Korean contemporary art is not bound by the differences as form, color, size, texture and material. Beyond this are the culture shifts that are taking place there.


There are a lot of opinions regarding the Korean contemporary art. It’s seen as vibrant and full of energy, these characteristics recommend Korean contemporary art as being associated with emerging art arenas. Also, it is seen as diverse, very different from Chinese art. As for the money, Korean works of art are seen as a bargain on the art markets: high quality and reasonable prices.

The art curator Tobias Berger asserts that Korean art has always been in the shadows of Japanese and Chinese art. This is because there are few local magazines, catalogues and other art texts on Korean contemporary art are available in English. Here is the full interview LINK.

I would like to show you some works of art that I really liked.

Bae Joonsung .arte_facto hereges perversões 02KoreanEye2012_page17_image1 KoreanEye2012_page19_image1

Bae Joonsung- The costume of Painter

KoreanEye2012_page23_image1KoreanEye2012_page24_image1 KoreanEye2012_page24_image2 KoreanEye2012_page24_image3 KoreanEye2012_page24_image4 KoreanEye2012_page24_image5 KoreanEye2012_page25_image1 KoreanEye2012_page26_image1 KoreanEye2012_page26_image2

Cho Duck Hyun-The Nora Collection

KoreanEye2012_page27_image1 KoreanEye2012_page27_image2 KoreanEye2012_page28_image1

Choe Uram- Varietal Urbanus Female

KoreanEye2012_page33_image1 KoreanEye2012_page34_image1 KoreanEye2012_page34_image2

Hong Seung Hee-Der Zwang zur Tiefe

KoreanEye2012_page42_image1 KoreanEye2012_page43_image1 KoreanEye2012_page44_image1

Je Baak-The structure

KoreanEye2012_page53_image1KoreanEye2012_page54_image1 KoreanEye2012_page55_image1

Koo Sungsoo- From the Series Magical Reality

KoreanEye2012_page56_image1 KoreanEye2012_page57_image1 KoreanEye2012_page58_image1 KoreanEye2012_page58_image2 KoreanEye2012_page59_image1

Lee Gilwoo- Dancer in Nature and Irrelevant Answer

KoreanEye2012_page77_image1 KoreanEye2012_page78_image1 KoreanEye2012_page78_image2

Shin Meekyoung-Translation-vase series

Here is an article  on ten contemporary Korean artists you should know about. LINK

If you have the chance go and see the exposition.I will.


Even though this subject is really hard to “digest”, I think this is a good way to understand the modern Korean society. I mean, we know only some fragments of its history and traditions, but we really don’t know very much about the modern society. Culture is like the language… is always changing. So, take your time to get to know it.


1. http://londonkoreanlinks.net/2008/05/09/contemporary-korean-art-comes-of-age/

2. http://artradarjournal.com/2010/09/20/curator-tobias-berger-talks-about-korean-contemporary-art-scene-in-4-questions/

3. http://www.modernedition.com/art-articles/korean-contemporary-art/contemporary-art-korea.html

4. http://www.koreaneye.org/

5. Korean Eye, 2012


2 thoughts on “Korean contemporary art

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