(K)Pop Art는?

(Sources: left, right)

What comes to mind when you hear that Korean(?) cosmetic brand Clio (클리오) hosts a biennial Clio Cosmetic Art exhibition? That it sounds more like a brand tie-in than a genuine attempt to encourage original and thought-provoking art? The purist in me couldn’t agree more, especially when you consider that some works in the 4th (2009) and 5th (2011) exhibitions were not just inspired by, but use the very same photos as Clio’s own advertisements, prominently featuring brand endorsers Kim Ha Neul (김하늘) and Lee Hyori (이효리) respectively.

When its at the behest of the advertiser itself, arguably the ensuing pop-art loses its edginess.

But art doesn’t have to be radical to look good. What’s more, when you combine the images with the women themselves, then the juxtapositions are like an intellectual wet dream, the afterglow of which has had me buzzing for the last week.

For which are the more real? The flesh-and-blood women in the Insa Art Center (인사아트센터) in Seoul’s Insa-dong district? Or Ha Neul and Hyori the mass-produced visual commodities, with which we are much more familiar?


(Sources: left, right)

But although the pictures did indeed persuade me to take down my handful of books on hyperreality and postmodernism, yet again I rejected them as unnecessarily abstruse, even for a geek like me. Also, Lee Hyori in particular (I’m less familiar with Ha Neul) is actually so down-to-earth and accessible that arguments that she’s merely a media creation can’t be sustained, one positive of Korean celebrity culture that I’ll be discussing in a lengthy post next week soon.

Until then, let me just pass on the art itself here, hoping to inspire more aficionados amongst you.

First, see here for a brief English introduction to the 5th exhibition, then the following graphic about it for a quick snapshot. If there’s anything on it you particularly like, click on the graphic itself to go to the Clio website, then on the specific artwork on the graphic there to get a quick (Korean) bio of the artist.

To any K-pop fans, see if you guess where you’ve seen Mari Kim’s work before:


For many more large and/or high-definition pictures of the art and exhibition hall itself, see here, here, here, or here (beware the automatic music in the last one). My favorite work is easily The Magic (also known as Masic) by Park Dae Cho (박대조) below (the one using the same photo as a Clio advertisement), which you can see a zoomable version of here:


Note though, that it’s actually a color-changing transparency in a light box rather than a static image, like most of Park Dae Cho’s works (which you can see more of on his blog):

That video doesn’t really do justice to it though, as it must really have been quite mesmerizing when viewed close-up. For the best equivalent, click on the following image:


As for those of you that share my love of juxtapositions, alas, there seems to be a conspiracy of exhibition-goers to avoid taking decent pictures of Lee Hyori standing next to this particular artwork in particular, this one always cutting it in half for example, or this one being so much more interested in the contents of Lee Hyori’s dress that he ruined the contrast. But decent, albeit smaller and/or watermarked versions can be seen here, here, or on Park Dae Cho’s blog itself.

Meanwhile, if you haven’t guessed already, Mari Kim (blog; Facebook; Twitter), not to confused with (the also – quite literally – cool) Miru Kim, is the artist behind 2NE1’s (투애니원) I am the Best (내가 제일 잘 나가) album cover, and the Hate You music video:


Finally, unfortunately there was much less interest in the 4th exhibition with Kim Ha Nuel, but Dramabeans does have a good English introduction to it,  and again Clio has a snapshot image, although without links to the artists this time:


See here, and here for more pictures of the exhibition, and here and here for more shots of juxtapositions.

What do you think? Please let me know, and I’d very much appreciate it if readers could pass on any more examples of interesting juxtapositions and/or celebrity-related Korean pop-art. I’d be especially interested in anything featuring men, as I’m curious if I’m only interested in the Clio exhibitions because they’re centered around two attractive women. I’m sure that’s not the only reason I like them (what do female readers think of them?), but probably it’s much more important than I’d like to admit!

Update – Sorry for forgetting to mention it in case you wanted to go, but unfortunately the 5th exhibition ended back in May. But see you at the 6th one in 2013! :D

9 thoughts on “(K)Pop Art는?

  1. I clicked through the Clio website and I actually really like all the works – there is a weird sort of connection between pop culture, art and cosmetics/cosmetic beauty and I think they all explore that in some way. The Magic in particular is very Warhol-esque – it reminds me of his Marilyn Monroe portraits. (He probably would have loved k-pop.) The exhibit could be one big marketing ploy, but at least it looks good, and it showcases great artists. Also, there’s definitely an awareness of the artificial nature of pop culture that you can really only explore through art and lengthy blog posts, lol. My favorites are the Hong Soo-yeon works though. Being only an amateur art appreciator, I’ll leave my comments at that. Maybe in 2013 I’ll be in Korea and check out the next one.

    Also, did you hear the news? Hyori’s dating! What do you think of this whole celebrity dating exposé thing, anyway? Another way of making celebrities “accessible” to fans? Or simply cheap publicity?


    1. No, I didn’t! ㅠㅠ Who? I only knew about Sunye of the Wondergirls.

      I couldn’t really say about the motivations behind the new trend of management companies allowing dating sorry (despite the impression I may give in the post, I don’t really follow Korean celebrities at all really). I’d like to say that it’s probably a combination of both reasons you mention, and that it certainly helps soften management companies’ images. But as you know, if you dig just a bit deeper, it emerges that idols have been dating surreptitiously for years, obviously with their managers’ permission…so I shouldn’t really even begin to generalize!


    2. I forgot to mention, by coincidence I went to the Monet to Warhol exhibition at the Busan Museum of Modern Art a few weeks ago. Mostly for my eldest daughter’s sake, who already has her father’s love of drawing, but it was a bit of a rip-off for 11,000 a ticket (I think 5-6000 would have been more reasonable. Later, I was flabbergasted at 100,000 won pricetags for prints in the Museum shop). Much more interesting were the cosplay aficionados who wandered over from the game convention G-star at BEXCO next door, which we decided to also check out. Alas, there were no cosplayers(?) inside, only the professional models (perhaps because it was late on the last day), and I had no idea that game conventions were so damn loud…but the 5000 won tickets were easily worth the bouncy castle set aside for children, which Alice and Elizabeth played on for the next hour! :D


      1. LOL at the title of that Soompi article – “Dating, but not Lovers”. I did not know that game conventions had bouncy castles – that sounds like a lot of fun! i miss the days when i was small enough to play on those.

        it’s clear that idols have been dating for years, keeping it private only to hold on to their fickle fans. i just think it’s interesting that all of a sudden they’re admitting it in public. i wonder if it’s because of public sentiment changing – i.e. people no longer go crazy and burn their fan merchandise when they hear the news – or if it’s a change in the industry where the management has realized that speaking up about dating among idols could actually be better for the idol’s image as well as their own images (not keeping idols under slave contracts and all that). the fan culture in k-pop is pretty unique in that idols essentially date their fans in order to keep them buying merchandise, so with them “breaking up” with their fans, so to speak, i wonder if this is the beginning of a bigger upheaval of the industry.

        this reminds me of the discussion on the gender make-up of k-pop fans we had a while back. will we see SNSD admitting they’re in relationships, considering they’re supposed to be big with men, mostly older? or DBSK who obviously have a huge, predominantly female fanbase?


        1. Good points – you’ve made me realize it’s much more interesting than I first thought. I think the final straw/biggest symbol of it would indeed be SNSD admitting to it…not that “innocent” Sunye of the Wondergirls dating isn’t very significant of course, but, whether by intention or design, somehow I think SM Entertainment was much more successful in cultivating an innocent image of them, much more than JYP was for the Wondergirls. Specifically, JYP always seemed to be pushing the limits with Sohee especially, whereas nobody can say SNSD’s Seohyeon was singled out to wear the most provocative clothing and so on.


          1. I’ve always wondered if Seohyun dresses (and often even dances) more modestly because of the company’s will or hers, or if it’s just coincidence. I do remember reading an article wherein a TRAX member mentioned that she could not be convinced to perform a kiss scene for their music video, although it was specified in the script. I’ve developed the impression that she has very distinct ideas of what she will or will not be comfortable doing, and is ready to put her foot down when asked to cross that line.


          2. It definitely seems to be Seohyun’s own doing rather than SME’s to me. The stylists put most of them in low-cut dresses for the MAMAs award show. She kept a hand over her cleavage the whole time.


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