Kimchi, the fermented pickle, paved the way, establishing a taste for colorful Korean cuisine in Britain. It was followed by a wave of K-pop music hysteria among young people. Then came those two international screen hits, Bong Joon-ho’s astonishing 2020 Oscar winner Parasite and last year’s brutal tv series squid game.
Today, South Korea’s influence is spreading just as rapidly in high culture, with the launch of a season of K music and visual art in London and a major exhibition at the Victoria and Albert Museum on the point of offering a kaleidoscopic vision of South Korean creativity. .
The title of the V&A show, Hallyu! (“Korean Wave!”), he summarizes. The exhibit, which opens on September 24, will proudly feature a jacket worn by the Gangnam Style singer Psy in his 2012 viral hit, but will also place the current explosion of Korean energy in a broader cultural framework.
Ahead of that, from this Friday, the exterior of the Coronet Theatre, a major arts hub in Notting Hill, west London, will be entirely covered in the work of inflatable art specialist Choi Jeong-hwa , as a way of announcing the arrival of a burst of Korean creativity at the end of the summer inside the building. Choi’s sculpture will adorn the facade of the theater with shapes made from balloons and yarn, as well as recycled and found objects, and the artist’s work will also be displayed inside the theater itself.
“The things I’ve seen in Korea over the past few years have blown my mind,” said Anda Winters, artistic director of Coronet Theater. “There is such an exciting use of traditions and cultural skills, but always with a twist.”
Winters’ passion for Korean contemporary arts dates back to his first visit to Seoul more than 20 years ago: “I have seen so many changes, both economic and artistic – and, of course, everything has been influenced by the ‘West. But they still use the artifacts, objects and ways of their own traditions,” she said.
Much of the work showcased during Coronet’s month-long season could be called “cutting edge,” except that Korean street food and popular mass entertainment once served as cutting edge, paving the way for a more sophisticated influx of big Korean names. artists. In fact, two years ago, K-pop superstar boy band BTS deliberately forged a connection with the fine arts world by sponsoring 22 art installations in London, Buenos Aires, Berlin, New York and Seoul. called Connect, BTS. For the project, British sculptor Sir Antony Gormley created Clearingan installation for Brooklyn Bridge Park as a giant, molding toy of wire coils strung together along the bank of the East River.
The growing importance of Seoul’s art and design is examined in a new book by Fiona Bae, Make Break Remix: The Rise of K-Style, out next month. Featuring a series of interviews with key designers and commentators, it suggests that commercial creativity and the independent practice of contemporary art are both experiencing unprecedented growth. Early next month, Seoul will recognize this new status in the cultural firmament by hosting its first Frieze art fair.
The Coronet called its season The tiger is coming; a phrase chosen by artist Choi to spark interest in all the storytelling, computer-generated sound, art and dance that takes place inside the venue through October.
New K group sensation Leenalchi will make their first live appearance outside of Korea, with three performances scheduled to coincide with South Korea’s thanksgiving festival, Chuseok. The six-piece band, closer to alt-pop in style and content than traditional headliners, relies on Pansori, a tradition of musical storytelling, as well as dance and rap. Their recent track Let’s Live for Today was featured on the original version of the acclaimed Apple TV+ drama series Pachinko.
The music will also come from Tacit Group, a team of songwriters and media artists who are also making their London debut following performances in New York, Chicago and Denmark. They use mathematical codes to create immersive sound experiences that change every time they are played.
A series of dance videos about the geography and nature of Jeju, an island located in the southernmost part of the Korean Peninsula, will be screened, and there will be a performance by body concert, a piece by award-winning Ambiguous Dance Company, directed by Boram Kim. The company appeared in Coldplay’s video for Higher Power last year.
Another dance job, Body-go-Roundwill be a “mixed reality performance” by Collective A, directed by Cha Jinyeob, who was the director of choreography for the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics.
The theater will be represented by the award-winning company Dolpagu, which will stage a show that explores gender and social class across generations. “I’ve wanted to bring all this work to London for years,” Winters said, “and certainly the whole world is paying attention to it now.”