Public talk. Contemporary South Korean Art: Catch Up and Overtake


From 20 April 2016




Garage Auditorium


During a public talk with curator Antonio Geusa, Korea specialist Elena Khokhlova and art historian Lee Hyun Suk will discuss the history of contemporary art in South Korea and its distinctive features, and how South Korean artists are addressing the issue of finding a national identity in art.  

Garage Museum of Contemporary Art and Triumph Gallery have prepared a public program for the EXTENSION series of international exhibitions, which showcase the current art scene of different countries. The second lecture in the program is dedicated to contemporary South Korean art.

Throughout the 20th century, art in South Korea developed under the influence of Western art movements, initially modernism and then postmodernism. The study of Western movements started in 1910 with mediation from Japan, and after the end of Japanese occupation and civil war, from the 1950s onward Korean artists have taken in Western modernism and started experimenting independently. Ever since the 1960s, artists in Korea have attempted to resolve the issue of finding a national identity in art, combining the country’s traditional aesthetics with Western art techniques. The Korean movement of abstract art—Tansaekhwa (also known as Dansaekhwa)—was born. In the 1980s, abstract painting was the dominant force. At the same time, however, realist movements also existed in parallel, the minjung misul (“art of the people”) and geug sasiljuui (“hyperrealism”).

In the 1990s, after the country “opened up,” the artists had an opportunity to study in the West, where they became fascinated with the wave of conceptual art and postmodernist ideas. This is the generation that elevated the country to the global stage. Over the past two decades South Korea has made a breakthrough in art, and now the country has become one of Asia’s major art centers. South Korean art is now successfully integrated globally. Artists address topics that are typical of global art: for example, criticism of our consumerist society or the problem of art in a modern, globalized world.

This lecture will outline the areas where art in the Republic of Korea has developed over the past few decades, and will also focus on the main topics covered in such art. The audience will have an opportunity to study the topics of interest reflected in the works of the most influential artists and examine the issue of finding a national identity in South Korean art—and how it is being resolved today.



Elena Khokhlova (moderator) is a Korea specialist, translator, and member of the council for the promotion of Korean culture in Russia. Graduated from the Faculty of Oriental Studies, specializing in Korean studies, at the Far Eastern Federal University. In 2008 she obtained a master’s degree in the history of art from Hongik University, Seoul. She worked at the Keumsan Gallery in Seoul. She is currently a lecturer on the history of Korean art at the School of Asian Studies in the Higher School of Economics.


Lee Hyun Suk graduated from Sungkyunkwan University in Seoul, South Korea in the Department of Russian Language and Literature. He obtained a master's degree in art criticism at the Faculty of Liberal Arts and Sciences (Smolny College) of St. Petersburg State University. He worked as a curator at the Busan Biennale in 2012, and he was a Russia correspondent for the South Korean art journal Art in Culture in 2013–2014. He was a scholar of the Government of the Russian Federation in 2010 and a scholar of the Government of the Republic of Korea in 2013. Since October 2013 he has been a post-graduate student of art history in the Faculty of History at Moscow State University.


Antonio Geusa is an independent curator and critic, and holds a PhD in philosophy. He defended his dissertation on media art at the University of London.