Monday, April 20, 2009

Artopia! Klimt in Seoul!

As we headed off to the Gustav Klimt exhibit at the Seoul Art Center, we made a terrible miscalculation. We ate at the waffle house near Noksapyeong station. After stuffing ourselves ill, neither of us wanted to head across the Han for the exhibit.

Still, Sunday in Korea does not bring tempting couch-potato fare such as the National Football League, and with little better to do, we headed off on the 6 and 3 lines, and were dumped off in some non-descript area of Seoul. The BLF (just now upgraded from OAF) immediately began freaking out that the “neighborhood map” that is a feature of each subway station, did not have the Hwarangan Museum on it. Being a bit taller than the nearly-subterranean BLF I could see the rather prominent street signs that pointed towards it. To be fair to the BLF, these were printed in rather large English, and that probably put her off track.

We walked (BLF suspiciously muttering all the time about how lost we were and how the “Koreans would slaughter us and eat our brains for anju") and as we did saw a cool overpass-slash-water-sculpture that, when we returned to, was alas off.

But we found the Klimt exhibit and bought our tickets. About 12 bucks each, US, for adults. The exhibit was a bit crowded, and had an unusually high percentage of people who didn’t really know how to queue and instead bumped around randomly and cut in front of things. In fact, in just about 1.3 years (cumulatively) in Korea, this was the first time I ever felt that expat complaint that Koreans paid no attention to who got some place first.

Oh well, it lightened up, and so did I. The exhibit was grand, particularly in the cases in which it had the planning sketches from pieces the Klimt painted. The first chamber, of course, was an obligatory attempt to tie Klimt’s art to Asian/Korean influences. It had some Asian paintings he had owned, as well as some Asian clothing. This was, I thought, good marketing, because it brought him home to the local issue.

Anyway, after that we wandered through the chambers and goggled. It was a bit dark in some places, in consideration of the age of the art I’m certain. But it was grand.

There were some great sketches leading to development of posters – in some ways Klimt prefigured computer typography and the Adobe Ilustrator program. Of course he also blew by those limited things in every conceivable way – his skill was that he could toss in those approaches, photo-realism, negative space, negative space defined by detritus, toss out brush strokes, and still end up with something mesmerizing. The room of pencil sketches of naked women was funny for more that one reason. Klimt drew some pretty graphic sketches of naked women, at least as graphic as you could get before the razor blade and Brazilian Wax. But no matter how obscene the picture (and at least two were graphic depictions of masturbating women), he gave them those great antisceptic “painterly” titles: “Reclining Nude #1 With Legs Parted.” Then there were the ajumma and ajeoshi, who had brought their kids to the exhibit to introduce the kids to culture. That was all good in the more tasteful rooms, but the haste with which kids where whisked through this room was epic.

And it had a totally cool “electronic poster/panel” section that showed various works that were not present, but gave context or meaning to pieces that were there. Another excellent panel combination compared works of Klimt to fashion that had trod the runaways in 2006/7. A really brilliant thing to see. This also contained digitized pictures of his friends and family, including a very spooky (we think) death mask of Klimt himself.

Then it was off to the “total artwork” section. Klimt and some of his fellow “secessionists” wanted art to extend beyond gilt frames and embrace entire environments. So they designed rooms and buildings that were entirely coordinated: A kind of proto-quieer-eye-for-the-straight-guy thing. The accompanying text related a (probably apocryphal) story of one of the “total art’ dudes opening a fashion line because people were walking into his “art” space in clothing that clashed.

A few final paintings, and we were out for the day, after I took a photo for the BLF’s brother (the bear one, obviously!). That was pretty funny in itself. Korean couples were running all over these rooms taking pictures, but they were using the art as a background. I took a shot of the bear shitting in the woods(?) and security was on me in a trice. Either you have to be taking a picture of a girl flashing two peace signs (in front of anything you want), or you need to be Korean. Outside of that. “No pictures please, sir!” LOLcatz..

BLF wanted to walk more, so we headed up the hill behind the museum and found a nice little Buddhist enclave which was gearing up for this weekend’s celebration of the man/god/extinguished. Thus there were lanterns hung everywhere. Here, we saw something amusing, this display which indicated what, if you took a particular trail, you could eat afterwards without fear of caloric impact.

Then it was down the hill backwards, to the plaza outside the Opera House. There was an Opera that night, so the sharply dressed intelligentsia were queuing up like sheeples from their glossy cars. In the plaza, there was a water-display timed to various snippets of opera. It was cool.

We wandered about for a bit, found a place that served semi-German beer, and chilled for the time it took to have two beers (me) and two cokes (BLF). Then it was off to the subway and our divergent trips home.

I think you should ALL fly over to Seoul and see this exhibit. I have a spare room with a bed, and the round trip is less than 1,000 US. You Americans lose at least that much each day on your plummeting stock market!

Heck, you get a view of Namsan Tower each night and at least one sam gyap sal dinner for free.

You parochial bastids won't come!


Anonymous said...

Round trip airfair SF-KOR now costs approx $600. At least that's the price I got on my recent trip.


rwellor said...

So there you go! It's even cheaper!

Anonymous said...

A bear and his honey pot.