[personal profile] niori_1709
When it comes to art galleries, I'll admit that I'm more of a museum girl. Don't get me wrong- I quite like going to art galleries, especially when they have interesting shows going on. It's just that I never seem to think of them off the bat when I'm looking for something to do. Like any big city, there are many, many art galleries in Seoul. Some are big, some are small, and they showcase a variety of different arts. There are three in particular that I have a tendency to frequent, and they are three of the biggest ones: Seoul Museum of Art, Seoul Arts Center and Dongdaemun Design Plaza. Those are the three that I'm going to regale you with, starting with Seoul Museum of Art.

Seoul Museum of Art (SEMA) was actually the first art gallery I ever went to while in Seoul, way back in my first few month living in Korea, and I've been there on two separate occasions. It's a three story building a ten minute walk away from Seoul City Hall and Deoksungung Palace. It has six exhibition halls (plus a library for art related writings), one of which is a permanent and the rest of the halls are for temporary exhibits, which switch out twice a year. These traveling exhibits are from around the world, and they come in a wide variety of subjects. There are the classic art shows, like Van Gough (which I didn't see, sadly), to more quirky themes. It was two of those exhibits that I went to SEMA to see. The first of those exhibits was one of the quirky ones, and it was the Tim Burton exhibit. I am a huge Tim Burton fan, have been since I first saw The Nightmare Before Christmas when I was a little kid. I love the dark aesthetic and the dark humour of Burton's work, and was really excited to go see the exhibition of his work. I wasn't completely sure what to expect, since 'art exhibit' in my mind equalled famous paintings on walls (or maybe some sculptures), but I have to give it to SEMA- they sure know how to design an exhibit. They turned a good chunk of the museum into a look that would fit into Burton's work, starting with the front gate. The arch that led up to the gallery had parts of a bronze cast iron fence on the regular stone pillars, and looked to be covered with thorny steel vines, and odd looking things throughout all of that. When you finally got into the museum, there was even more to the design. The first thing you saw when you walked in the building was a giant balloon thing, that was meant to look like some nightmare character out of a Burton film (blue skin, massive head, one eye, no other facial features to speak of). That, more than anything else, set the tone of what I was going to see. It just screams 'brace yourself- this is going to be weird'. The hallways leading to the exhibits were just as awesome, one of them designed to look like you were walking into the mouth of a crazy, Nightmare Before Christmas-esque monster. It's intense.

The exhibit itself was divided into three different sections, taking up three different rooms. There are some examples of his earliest works, drawings that let you show how he has evolved as an artist and a film maker. There is an amazing amount of artwork, both done by Burton and those involved in his films. There are examples of story concepts that never came to fruition , only known in the art drawn for it. A favourite of mine was a re-telling of Romeo and Juliet with long legged, colourful monsters that looked like something out of a cheerful Salvador Dali painting. The picture used actually managed to look romantically adorable, which really says something. There are also props and pieces from the various movies, including the famous ones: Alice in Wonderland, Edward Scissorhands, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Sleepy Hallow, Batman Returns, and many more. The best, in my opinion, was (of course) The Nightmare Before Christmas. You could actually see the original stop motion dolls used in the film (fun fact- those are much bigger than I anticipated). It was all very exciting for a Burton fan.
The second exhibit I went to SEMA was far more traditional. It was an exhibit dedicated to the work of Paul Gauguin. While there were other works, much of the focus was Gauguin's Polynesian period and the period just before, where he painted many a religious scene. Gauguin was born in Paris who started painting with Impressionism. His use of colour eventually took him beyond that style, and he began to paint based on his own experience with his own imagination added in. Opposed to industrialization, Gauguin eventually moved to Tahiti, a place with little of what he considered civilization.

From here is where some of his most famous works come from. The highlight of the show was Gauguin's most famous work, a massive painting called Where Do We Come From, What Are We, Where Are We Going. It shows Tahitian people relaxing in nature, painting with a mixture of browns, greens and other more muted colours. It's a beautiful piece. It's not the only famous work there, and they were all lovely to see. The paintings for the Polynesian are wonderful, capturing the causal moments of the Tahitian people. While there is absolutely some othering in the paintings, and you get a sense of Gauguin painting these subjects as an exotic idealism, they are still great works, and I recommend seeing them if you ever get the chance.

While I attended two shows at SEMA, I've only seen one at Seoul Arts Center, and that was the Studio Ghibli exhibit. Studio Ghibli is an animation studio out of Japan, and I'd wager that it's one of the most famous studios outside the ones that dominate Hollywood. The work that comes out of Studio Ghibli is award winning for the beautiful animation, and has been released and translated in many countries, including Canada. While it might not have gained as much widespread popularity in mainstream North America, is truly is a world renowned studio. In Japan itself, Studio Ghibli has five of the highest grossing movies. Spirited Away, Kiki's Delivery Service, and Princess Mononoke are only some of the most populr films to come out of the studio. I am a huge fan of the movies, both the amazing animation and the truly deep, thought provoking plots and themes that go with them.
When it comes to space, Seoul Arts Center (SAC) is actually better than SEMA. SEMA is incredibly crowded and close together, which can be stifling if there's a crowd.

While SEMA uses three galleries, SAC uses six, which gives you a lot more room to move. Those exhibits showcase the best work of the creator of the studio (Isao Takahata) and the studio itself great works, including the ones I listed above. Of course, this is mostly done through artwork. Not only drawings, but paintings and models as well. I love the style of Studio Ghibli, and getting to see all the art up close was spectacular. There was also a section devoted to the art style that the studio works with, called the Layout System. It's technical knowledge that helps you get a deeper look at how the movies come to life, and it's interesting. The amount of work that went into it is obvious. It was a beautiful exhibit, one that anyone who loves animation would be thrilled to see. The design was amazing as well, with the corridors looking as though they were scenes out of one of the films themselves.

Last, but not least, Dongdaemun Design Plaza. This is actually a massive, oddly shaped dome building that only opened in the past couple of years. There are always multiple exhibits going on, with one big one (usually). There's also been a festival or two hosted here, including a Pikachu Festival, held after a Korean won the world Pokemon card tournament (that festival, however, was poorly planned -though getting my picture with a Nicole sized Pikachu was awesome-, and thankfully the exhibitions are much better). Now, I'm going to wax poetic, because they had a WETA Workshop show. WETA Workshop is the New Zealand based company that did the conceptual design (armour, creatures, props, costumes, etc) for Lord of the Rings/The Hobbit. This is the company that helped bring Middle Earth to life. The joy I felt when I found out this was coming to Seoul cannot be explained. There were life sized statues of different characters (the trolls, Azog, a Nazgul and Gandalf), and I gleefully skipped among them. There was a beautiful set piece in bronze that showed Gollum in his cave in the Misty Mountains. There were small models of the locations and characters. There were smaller props and concept design drawings, and it was all very, very glorious.

Suffice to say, it was a day where everything was right in the World of Nicole. Now, WETA hasn't just done Lord of the Rings. It's worked in a number of other films, and those are showcased there. They also had two original concepts as well, both fascinating (though sadly none seemed to be anything more than just an exhibit). The storyline and art were stunning, especially for The Gloaming Trilogy, the story of a human who gets dropped into a magical world and a troll has to go on a journey to get them back. The creature design is some of the most unique and fascinating I've ever seen, and I got to see it in sculptures and art. The fact that this doesn't actually exist as a piece of fiction is a tragic thing for me.

It goes without saying that, obvious, these are no longer the shows that are on at any of the three galleries. They've all been changed out by now, multiple times. I'm sure you're wondering why I'd go into such detail about exhibits that are temporary, and here's my answer (it's a two-fold one). First, these are exhibits that travel all over the world, so there is actually a chance that you'll run into it somewhere, someday. When that day comes, you'll think back an go 'hmmm....Nicole did mention how wonderful this was!'. Secondly, it's to give you an idea of what those three art galleries have to offer, in a more general sense. One (or two) well put together exhibits speaks volumes of the quality of the gallery, and whether or not it's a place you should keep an update notice on. of Because of these handful of shows, these are the places that I do, in fact, keep an eye out for.

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August 2017

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