On the evening of February 1, Park West Gallery held their opening event for “SoHo’s Got Seoul.” Curated by Dr. Stephanie Seungmin Kim, this exhibition featured the original artworks of five Korean artists, K-pop idols, and K-drama stars.
The Visionary Behind “SoHo’s Got Seoul”
Dr. Stephanie Seungmin Kim, founder of multiple companies in which she collaborates with Korean artists, has curated this one of a kind exhibition. Dr. Kim has worked with over 600 artists across different disciplines and has curated exhibitions and festivals in 22 cities all over the world. Some of her notable curations have been “A Soldier’s Tale” (London Asia House 2013), “Sleepers in Venice” (Venice Biennale 2015), the Heritage exhibition at Unesco (Paris 2014), and now “SoHo’s Got Seoul.”
The art showcased in “SoHo’s Got Seoul” is made by “artainers,” a term coined by the Korean art community for entertainers who make visual art.
“These artists have devoted decades to perfecting their original art form, such as acting or performing,” said Dr. Kim in a statement for Park West Gallery. “These paintings allowed the artists to express something more intimate. The maturity and commitment to the art and brilliance deeply moved me to tell their stories.”
The five artists featured in “SoHo’s Got Seoul” are renowned figures who are recognized for their K-pop and Korean entertainment careers. With the recent growth of Korean pop culture and media, the exhibition opens up a unique perspective into the artists’ worlds that are often separate from their known public personalities.
Jae-Yong Choi, a contemporary artist based in Seoul, is no stranger to New York. His work also made it to Manhattan eight to ten years prior to “SoHo’s Got Seoul” for two other exhibitions. He is now back to showcase his more recent pieces in “SoHo’s Got Seoul.”
Choi has an extensive background in art. He got his BA of Religious Fine Arts in Korea and later moved on to study in Germany at the Academy of Fine Arts Leipzig.
Choi’s installation works involve the use of industrial materials and reflects upon the relationships that are prominent in his life. He highlighted how everyone has significant roles to play in life: “My works capture these stories, portraying individuals who appear fragile in society like a deer but hold significant roles.”
Actor and director Ko Jun, best known for his roles in Cheat On Me If You Can and Midnight Runners, claims to be a beginner artist, but his paintings show otherwise. He has had a passion for drawing since elementary school, loving it to the point of doodling during class instead of studying. Now, painting has become a mode of meditation and finding peace.
“I hope that when people see my paintings, they, too, can experience a sense of healing and positive energy,” Ko emphasized to EnVi. “I don’t seek anything beyond that – just the hope that my art can bring solace to those who connect with it.”
Jian KWON (Solbi)
Singer, television personality, and former K-pop member of Typhoon Jian Kwon — also known as Solbi — had turned to painting as a form of healing. After enduring cyberbullying at the height of her K-pop years, Kwon turned to painting. A form of therapy she could find herself and live a new life through again, painting became a soothing outlet for her.
During the opening event for “SoHo’s Got Seoul,” Kwon expressed her happiness and gratitude for having her pieces shown in the city. “In New York, many people live in the bustling city, but my artwork is motivated by nature, so I hope many people come and experience the beauty of paradise while enjoying nature,” she said.
To her, art is love, and it is something that she shows passionately through her paintings. In a recent video documentary, “Painting Through Pain,” Kwon expressed that she is able to “capture what is in her heart” through finger painting landscapes of flowers and nature. Kwon continues to transcend beyond the darkness of cyberbullying and use those experiences to create empowering yet calming pieces.
During the event, member of K-pop boy band Shinhwa and solo artist Min-Woo Lee recalled coming to New York for the first time. He and his other Shinhwa members came to perform in the city 26 years ago. The U.S. also was the first country outside of Korea Min-Woo had visited. The special experience of showcasing his work in “SoHo’s Got Seoul” has made him feel revitalized, now that he has returned to New York as an artist.
At the “SoHo’s Got Seoul” opening, Lee touched on his most precious piece, which hangs on the right of Picasso’s work. It is inspired by an impressionable childhood moment between him and his mother. Growing up, his family’s living conditions and financial struggles were becoming too difficult for his mother to keep up with. One morning, she woke him up and revealed she wanted them to escape their reality and run away.
“I still vividly remember the moment when my mom held me, crying and expressing the hardships she was facing,” Lee said. “That moment made me pledge to protect my family. That painting holds a special place in my heart.”
Jun SHIM (Negativ)
He has produced work for K-pop groups such as Super Junior, Red Velvet, and NCT. In the last three years, Shim has expanded his creative eye into the field of painting.
“When I paint, I can focus on myself,” Shim shared in an introduction video for “SoHo’s Got Seoul.” In addition, through his work, he aims to tell a story and express himself through the usage of colors and words.
“Art has no boundaries”
When speaking with EnVi, Dr. Kim conveyed that “Art has no boundaries.” Though many know these artists’ faces and their lives from TV appearances, “SoHo’s Got Seoul” opens doors to a new outlook on art in Korean culture.
Jae-Yong Choi also stated, “Although Korean culture is widely known, Korean art isn’t as well-promoted.” He continued, saying to EnVi, “It would be great if actors, singers, and other individuals involved in Korean culture could lower the barriers to galleries by engaging in exhibitions like this.”
Park West Gallery x “SoHo’s Got Seoul”
Since 1969, Park West Gallery has gained recognition for their art auctions on cruise ships, in hotels, and at their gallery locations in New York, Las Vegas, Detroit, and Hawaii. Their mission is to create an experience that encourages conversations in a unique atmosphere for art enthusiasts and collectors alike.
“SoHo’s Got Seoul” will be running from February 2 to March 1 at Park West Gallery’s New York City location. Make sure to check it out on your next visit to New York!
Interested in reading more about Korean visual artists? Check out photographer Haneul Lee’s story here!