[Seoul Saunter] Peekaboo with art in Pil-dong

By Yoon Min-sik
  • Published : Jul 24, 2017 - 17:11
  • Updated : Jul 24, 2017 - 17:11

Seoul is a vibrant megalopolis with modern high-rises crowding the city’s major arteries. Nestled among the gleaming buildings are maze-like alleys that appear to have escaped the passage of time. The Korea Herald explores the many nooks and crannies of Seoul, proclaimed the capital of Joseon in 1392, that reveal a multifaceted city. - Ed.

Everyone loves Myeong-dong. But the next time you visit one of Korea’s most famous shopping districts, why not sidetrack just a little bit? From Exit No. 4 of Chungmuro Station, head toward the famous hanok village.

The little alley up the 24th street, Pil-dong may be more than what you expect, with charming art pieces around every corner.

A sculpture stands at the entrance of 24th street in Pil-dong, Seoul. (Park Hyun-koo/The Korea Herald)

One of the most notable attractions is the tour around the Street Museums. If you are looking for the Mona Lisa, colossal buildings and professional curators, you may be disappointed. But if you are looking for some pieces of contemporary Korean art to enjoy, you are in just the right spot.

The Street Museums are eight nonprofit exhibition spaces located in the 24th street that show art pieces such as paintings, sculptures, photographs, installations and media art.

“We wanted people to view art and culture as something that they can enjoy and consume, not something they have to study,” said Park Dong-hoon, the head of advertisement firm Hands BTL Media Group who created the Street Museums and launched the Pil-dong Town Project. “When you have to buy a ticket to go to a museum, there’s already some pressure. But if you walk past (the Street Museums) you can just easily walk in.”

One such museum, “Nest,” is a small area decorated by twigs and a window. It takes roughly seven to eight seconds to walk across the space. Anyone can easily walk in and out, and have a taste of the artwork displayed there.

Street museum “Nest” is seen on 24th street in Pil-dong, Seoul, famous for its street art. (Park Hyun-koo/The Korea Herald)

Right next to it is a sculpture of a pudgy, grumpy man called “Boxer” by artist Kim Won-geun, one of many surprises lurking around every corner of the street.

The operators of Pil-dong Town Project have prepared a little challenge with the Street Museums. Right outside each museum is a stamp and an ink pad. If you collect all eight stamps from each museum, you can get a discount at Bakery 24 near the information center.

There are also tours held between 11 a.m. and 5 p.m. from Monday to Saturday. This allows tourists to visit the Streets Museums and get information on the artworks displayed there, along with a detailed explanation of the Pil-dong project.

One needs to reserve a spot by calling (02) 2276-2400, as a minimum of five visitors are required for a tour.

Those visiting between Sept. 21 and 24 will get a chance to participate in the Pil-dong Town’s festival, during which artists who have displayed their works in the street will show off their skills. The event combines art, music, food and even gardening for people to enjoy.

“The fall festival is literally like a harvest. We pick from the paintings, sculptures and music performances that we’ve been doing in the past year, and display what we want to share more with the public,” said Park.

But Pil-dong has not always been filled with art and fun.

Park, who initiated the project three years ago, said he thought it was a pity that the Chungmuro area -- once the center of Korea’s movie industry -- is falling behind as other areas in the city undergo development.

“Before the damage is irreversible, we wanted to make art and culture live and breathe in Chungmuro again. But this time, it would be with contemporary art that would appeal to today’s public,” he said.

Park’s next goal is to create a school where people can learn about art and culture. Tentatively named “Pil-dong School,” it will involve artists who participated in the town project teaching.

The goal is to officially launch the school next March.

By Yoon Min-sik