By Visual Arts Division
Visual Arts Division supervises Art Gallery and Calligraphy Hall. The former is used to display or study visual or formative art, and the latter is for showing traditional Korean sign art. In short, 'exhibition object,' 'artist' who creates it and 'audience' who appreciates it are the three elements that comprise an exhibition space. Based on this, Visual Arts Division's job is to look into characteristics of each element and coordinate them to bring out a consistent harmony.
1) Exhibition Object
Exhibition object is a 'thing.' Painting is what is drawn on canvas or paper with colors, and sculpture is what is made out of stone, wood or metal. As these art works are destroyed with the passage of time, restoring them to the original state requires some basic physical and scientific knowledge. An analogy can be drawn from surgeon's knowledge of anatomy and human body who is about to operate on a patient. External injury cannot be cured by mental treatment. Likewise, damage to an artwork is not possible to recover by mental treatment.
Museum or gallery curator is called 'keeper' in England, 'conservator' in France and 'kustos (kuster) in Germany and 'curator' in America. All these names have a meaning of 'keep,' 'conserve' or 'manage.' These terms are premised on that there already exists something subjected to such an act. Then the question is what to keep and conserve. Kustos originally means the church keeper, who is to keep the divine spirit that had helped maintain the devout religious faith of the Germans throughout a long period of time. That faith was centered around the church. Many things in the church was not the object to be shown but to worship. Responsibility to keep them was the reflection of their pride that they execute and preserve their faith well. Here we need to realize that our precious national heritage, the Buddha statue inside Sukgulam grotto, was the object of 'worship' before it became the beautiful art work on display. There our ancestors bowed and prayed.
Such custom also existed in the Western world. The object was placed in a shrine or a cathedral or a church. It was around the 18th century that the objects of worship emerged as the objects of display as industrialization and civil government began to take shape with the collapse of religious and aristocratic hierarchy. The curators of England, France and Germany mirror their tradition of this kind. In this regard, it may be interesting to note that the duties of the U.S. curators are different, which are less burdened by the tradition.
Object of exhibition is again an 'objet' to be seen and felt. Whether it is 'art' or not boils down to a matter of an individual's idea. For instance, Baroque art can be said to be the creation of Louis XIV who made France the great cultural nation. He was the curator of the art he created. However, he was not a civilian as most of today's curators are. He was the omnipotent being who had wielded the ultimate sovereign power. Baroque art, taken under his wings and displayed under the patronage of his dynasty, was more of the symbol of the ruling class than the artistic object. Undoubtedly, today it is not the job of a curator to exhibit the values of the established. Being indifferent to the power and authority, Curator's dilemma rather lies in planning the exhibition from a solitary point of view.
To buy fish, you have to go to the fish market. Because that's the fact of life. Likewise, people believe that art is in the art gallery.
Fish, in fact, originally lived in the sea. They were born to swim around in the vast expanse of the sea water. To catch them, you need to study and learn their natural habit. And even after you caught them, you have to figure out how to keep them fresh and put them on the shelves to make them look good. The same goes for art in the art gallery. Before the art gallery, art was in the immense time span of art history and infinite space reaching from earth to heaven. A curator is a member of this time and space who is responsible for a social branch that delivers, promotes, conserves, studies and disseminates the meaning of the 'idea' of the 'art' by showing 'objects' on display.
As mentioned above, there is no such thing as 'art.' It was the human called 'artist' that existed first. Some of the things these humans had created began to be referred to as 'art,' and that is the origin of art history. That is, humans came first and then the object called art. The term 'art' cannot be displayed because it is impossible to see and feel. A child would instinctively start drawing and fumbling 4with earth before learning the word 'art.' 'Object' on display is what is produced by an 'artist.' The question raised here is whether being an artist is a socially viable occupation. As was illustrated in the first section, an artist used to be a person with faith in god who serves the religious and political governors. It was only the 18th century that creation of art was considered a profession.
SAC runs the world's only calligraphy exhibition hall. Calligraphy is a traditional Korean art form. Then was calligraphy a socially viable profession in Korea? Actually, it was a way of spending leisure time for the noble bourgeoisie who were free from the threat of destitute livelihood. Korean calligraphy showcases the Korean dilettantism, and yet did not fail to produce great calligraphers.
The origin of culture is related to how human beings recognize 'time.' Time is more than an objective measurement. The subjective portrayal of the spirit, sensation and dynamics of a certain 'time' by a contemporary artist is 'art.' So when we contemplate art, we recognize this 'time,' also, besides space. The current tendency that the art of calligraphy is generally pushed on the sidelines of people's interest is an indication to the people's past failure to empathize with this 'time.' Maybe the same reason can be found for the 'slow pacing' of the Calligraphy Dept. compared with the Art Dept. Something needs to be done to delve into the reason and find a cure.
French critic Jean Cassou once observed that "Modern society thinks much of social functions of art." Appreciation of art has traditionally been seen to evoke psychological response from a viewer. A social concept that corresponds to the psychological contemplation is the 'audience.' Audience is the public that consists of a number of individuals: student, salesman, government official, housewife, child, elderly citizen, tourist, art lover and a physically handicapped person, just to name a few. In other words, 'audience' is not a single group, but a wide variety of individuals grouped for the same purpose of art appreciation. The audience is the potential customer pool curators must treat dearly. It is not a passive collection of people. They are not inadvertently standing in front of a painting, but have chosen to come with certain expectation under the name of art. This does not, though, immediately translate that they are all art lovers.
They might have come in search of social interaction or social demonstration. Even if some of them are glib and snobbish, they must be moved to some extent as far as they are attracted to the name of art at least. The ways to encourage these people to enjoy the exhibition in the true sense of art and to dismantle their pretension should be explored and developed. Some of the ways could be to grow 'museum member,' discover the potential audience and cultivate more 'professional' viewers.
In doing so, SAC Art Gallery has recently opened a video lecture room to be used by art and calligraphy classes and refurbished its Art Academy program with more organized curriculum.