ROKing Korea is a feature column by ROKing Magazine that explores Korean culture and expat life in South Korea. With the growing number of Korean-American expats in Korea, we’ve teamed up with ROKing, a bi-monthly, bi-lingual, Korea-centric magazine, to give you a glimpse of life in South Korea.
Zien Art Space – Art museum combines with daily life
From the outside, Zien Art Space seems to be quite small in size. But as you walk inside, hidden spaces are revealed. The building was designed by architect Jo Sung-ryong, the designer of Seonyudo Park. But this is not the kind of a building that needs renovation as time goes by. This building is continuously evolving, maturing with the nature, with rust, dust and all. The flowerpots placed here and there are lovely and pleasing to the eyes and nose, and the potter-turned-CEO-turned-building director has planned this space for a long time.
The building boasts a unique concept of bringing together living space and art museum with the theme of “an art space within daily life.” Zien Art Space was planned out to draw people to the artwork with a relaxed attitude. And this is why the director built a restaurant, cafeteria and art shop. Because the director is a potter, the exhibition here is mostly about pottery and ceramics. Also, there is a facility for visitors to experience pottery-making first hand. Zien Art Space has a kiln and offers pottery classes. The pottery class is quite popular, especially among children. During school breaks this space gets busy with children and their parents. The director of Zien Art Space is also a famous pottery collector. The flowerpots that are located here and there are all brought from Italy by the director himself. And in the art shop are the precious rare pottery pieces the director collected in Korea and overseas.
You might also easily get hungry walking around the art space, which is why a restaurant called Hide Park was built within the confines of Zien Art Space. Hide Park is an authentic Italian restaurant which is praised for its fresh ingredients and flavorful dishes. The fresh pasta here is all made at the kitchen and boasts a chewy texture. Also, the taste of the pizza stands out because the aromatic herbs decorating the top of the pizza are directly from the plants in the art space.
Zien Art Space
Location: 150-7, SanGil-dong, Kiheung-gu, Yong-in City, Gyeonggi Province
Hours: 11:30~22:00 (Hyde Park)
Gallery Royal – A bath-accessories exhibition, restaurant and wine bar all in one place
A bath-accessories exhibition combined with a restaurant sounds like quite a contradictory idea. Gallery Royal is a multifunctional space by Royal&Co., a Korean manufacturer and exporter of bathroom products. They built this gallery to reach out to their customers more effectively. Their first objective was to create a place to rest for customers who came to visit their exhibition. With its unique concept, interior and architecture, this building stands out among other buildings in the area, which is why it has become a landmark of sorts around the Hak-dong Station area.
In the basement is the largest bath-product exhibition space in the building, called “Mokgan (a place for bath).” Here, various products such as faucets,bidets and hand dryers are on display. On the first and the second floor a book cafe, restaurant and wine bar make this no ordinary bath-accessory exhibit, as if such a thing were ordinary in the first place. The furniture in this cafe/restaurant is very special because some come from brands that have yet to be introduced to Korea and are specially ordered from abroad. Other items are vintage and are only one of their kind.
At the book café on the first floor there are a lot of rare architecture and design-related books, which is another reason why a lot of customers are drawn to this place. Gallery Royal is not run for profit, so the food and drinks are not that expensive. The wine list here is selected by the director, who is a wine aficionado, which is good news for wine-lovers. The food here is fusion-style Italian. The salad with stone grilled vegetables and ricotta cheese is a favorite dish among the female visitors. Their scallops with parmesan and tomato sauce, and cream spaghetti with key oyster and lobster are among some other popular dishes. Various exhibitions are held at the art gallery on the second floor, eight to 10 times a year, while most of the artwork can be enjoyed by just about anyone. On the sixth floor of the building is a lecture hall where various art and interior-design classes are held monthly.
Location: Royal Building 36-8, Nonhyeon-dong, Gangnam-gu, Seoul
Hours: 11:00~1:00 (Restaurant, Book Café, Wine Bar)
Kunsthalle – Picking on mainstream culture
In the middle of the crowded streets of Nonhyeon-dong, southern Seoul, sits a cargo container that is seemingly out of ordinary. It is none other than Kunsthalle. Kunsthalle are multifunctional art spaces built out of old cargo or shipping containers, and such uses for these giant boxes have been on the rise in Europe and in Asia. The one in Nonhyeon-dong opened in April 2009 and is run by Platoon, an art communications group from Germany. Charmed by the energy and liveliness of Seoul, Platoon chose Seoul as their Asia headquarters. Platoon explained that container boxes are perfect spaces for various cultural outlets that normal art spaces couldn’t take in.
In the main hall of Kunsthalle includes a bar, restaurant and event hall. You can purchase cocktails, beer and German dishes such as pork schnitzel. Various performances and independent movies are shown in the event hall, while the showcase area is used primarily for resident artists who hold their exhibits every month. On the second floor, there is studio for artists, and on one side of the studio are rare art books that can’t be easily found in Korea. The exhibitions at Kunsthalle questions problems that are easily passed by in the daily life. For example, an art exhibition entitled “Supremacists’ Salon” has recently graced the facility with black, white and yellow blocks, which represent race and racism.
Platoon also has an interesting program that selects resident artists with similar ideas to the Kunsthalle way and offers them studio space for six months. After six months, they give the artists an opportunity to hold an exhibition on the first floor for one month.
Location: 97-22, Nonhyeon-dong, Gangnam-gu, Seoul
Written by Eun-Ji Kim. Photos by Han-Bit Im. Cross-published from ROKing Magazine with permission.