Gwangju Talks:

What do you think about the Gwangju art scene?

Written and interviewed by Ki Su-yeon and Lee So-eun


Han Sae-byeol  (25, University Student)

As a person who has lived in Gwangju for about 20 years, Gwangju is a really boring city. Gwangju has several art exhibitions like the Biennale where artists deal with traditional themes and political issues. There was even a picture that was exhibited in the Biennale but was banned from inclusion because it was mocking President Park Geun-hye.

Right next to the Biennale, there is a provincial art museum about traditional ways of farming, fishing, studying and living in the past. But it is still too formal and uninteresting.

Gwangju needs to improve its arts in many ways to be enjoyable, especially to the young generation. For instance, if Gwangju adopted western art culture like Comic-Con, it would be much more exciting for young people.

I’m proud of my city and my culture, but something needs to change so it can be more energetic and enthusiastic.

Lee Jin-ah (28, High School Teacher)

I think Gwangju’s art scene has a lot to offer, especially this year. But currently I’m not planning to go to the art museum or other exhibitions, not because I’m not interested in art, but because they are too complicated to understand. I sometimes read books about aesthetics, and even went to Paris just to sit for a half-day in front of Monet’s Water Lilies at the Orangerie Museum. The thing is, Gwangju’s art scene is not to my taste.

According to an aesthetics lecture I attended recently, post-modern art does not serve a decorative function anymore, and people can interpret the same picture differently depending on their own experiences. Put simply, they are neither pretty nor easy to understand. Sadly, Gwangju’s art scene follows the latest trend, and most of the art displayed is post-modern art. If citizens in Gwangju were well-cultivated from an artistic perspective, they could accept a wide range of artistic forms. But in Gwangju and everywhere in Korea, artistic education has always been put behind academic achievements.

I think the directors or curators of art exhibitions should understand that reality. Post-modern art is too separated from our daily lives and not even beautiful in my eyes. If it were the works of Alphonse Mocha or Gustav Klimt, I would definitely want to see it. However, the art from 2013 Design Biennale is not that attractive to me. Well, that is post-modernism, but what does ”art” mean if only a small portion of professionals can enjoy it?

Lee Gyu-seop (32, Physicist)

I have lived in Gwangju for seven years, and until now I thought the Gwangju Biennale was just a one-time exhibition and didn’t know that it takes place every two years. I admit I’m not that interested in art, but still, the promotion of the art scene is not enough. A few weeks ago, I went to a jazz concert and was surprised to see that even though the concert was free, not many citizens were there. That might be similar to the Gwangju art scene. Even though there are many exhibitions and events, people do not know about them due to the lack of promotion.

Also, the themes look too complicated to understand and too restricted to attract people. It might be much more interesting if 3D holograms were used in artworks.

Kim Soo-hwa (33, Swing Dancer)

I think works of art should be much easier to understand. Looking back on my elementary school days, the first Biennale was a really big deal. I remember a great number of people waiting in line in front of the art museum, and many events were held to celebrate the opening. These days, however, the Biennale doesn’t seem to get much attention. There are many reasons, like financial restrictions or lack of education about art. But the real problem is that the artworks are too difficult to understand.

Also, education about art should be different. I used to go to the Biennale for a school picnic, but that was a terrible memory. Among the pack of students, running out of time, I had to skip over many of the works of art, just glancing at them without understanding. For many people of the younger generation, going to the Biennale for a school picnic might be their first experience with art. But that only gives a terrible memory. If there had been hands-on experiences, it might have been much more interesting.


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