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(Yonhap Interview) Curatorial talents, state support are boon to Korean contemporary art: Chinese museum director

All News 18:07 October 13, 2016

By Woo Jae-yeon

SEOUL, Oct. 13 (Yonhap) -- Miriam Sun Kung has always liked art. She often skipped school to visit a museum or gallery with friends. While she was working in Phoenix Television for more than 10 years as a reporter covering politics and economy, her passion for art always lurked underneath.

Then in 2005, she and her husband Samuel Kung founded the Museum of Contemporary Art (MoCA) Shanghai, China's first privately owned contemporary art museum, in the People's Park in the Chinese city.

"I think I was born with an appreciation for art. I always liked beautiful, inspiring ideas," the Chinese executive director of the MoCA Foundation said in an interview with Yonhap News Agency at the Leehwaik Gallery in Seoul on Thursday. She is one of the VIP guests invited by the organizers of the annual Korea International Art Fair (KIAF) which opened yesterday and runs through Sunday.

It is her second visit to the art fair -- the biggest one in Korea -- and she was surprised to see how supportive the Korean government is to bring in foreign art buyers and galleries to check out the country's contemporary art scene as part of efforts to enhance Korean art on the global stage.

Miriam Sun Kung, executive director of the MoCA Foundation, poses for a photo after talking to Yonhap News Agency at the Leehwaik Gallery in Seoul on Oct. 13, 2016. (Yonhap)

The annual art market is hosted by the Galleries Association of Korea and supported by various state-run agencies and institutions, including the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism and Korea Arts Management Service (KAMS). Around 130 high-profile collectors, journalists, critics, art directors and gallery owners have been invited, a big boost from 20 last year.

"Previously it was the entertainment industry that the Korean government helped boost. Now it seems like contemporary art. I am very envious," she said, adding that she hopes to get a lot more support and encouragement from her government, especially when the country's art market has grown so much since she opened the museum 11 years ago.

"In the beginning, only expats or foreign tourists visited our museum. But now we have a lot of locals, especially well-educated young people, come check out our exhibitions."

For example, MoCA's most popular exhibition featured famous Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama. In the span of three months, more than 330,000 people visited the show, "A Dream I Dreamed," that ran from Dec. 15, 2013, till March 30, 2014.

"I feel that if we open a really good show, people will come and see it. Chinese are now much more open."

A collector herself, she bought several pieces of artwork by young Korean artists, including Hong Seung-pyo and Im Chang-min, at last year's KIAF.

Calling his artwork "beautiful" and "poetic," she instantly loved Im's works that got her heart "pumping hard" with excitement. Im is a popular media artist known for elegantly combining pictures of beautiful scenery with video.

Kung finds it very charming how Korean curators put together an exhibition by somehow finding an emotional connection between global abstract art and their own.

"They seem to perfectly know how to link up Korean art and international art," in such a smart way that can trigger an emotional need from gallerygoers and art critics, she commented.

"There is no question why Korea's dansaekhwa has been in such high demand," she said, referring to the monochrome abstract paintings that have become highly appreciated by global art collectors in the last few years.

"In China, we are not ready yet. It is very important for curators to do a lot of research to find common ground when creating an art show" to be able to push the emotional buttons of outsiders, she said.

jaeyeon.woo@yna.co.kr
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