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[Exclusive] Incheon airport ditches plan for global museum

“Seoul” by Hong Soun is on display as part of the exhibition “Warming-up” at Incheon Airport in December. (MMCA)
“Seoul” by Hong Soun is on display as part of the exhibition “Warming-up” at Incheon Airport in December. (MMCA)

Incheon Airport is considering building a 300-square-meter exhibition space within the airport, after a recent study found that plans to establish a satellite museum of one of Europe‘s top-tire museums, such as the Centre Pompidou or the Louvre, were unfeasible.

In January, Incheon International Airport Corp. commissioned a study to gauge the feasibility of setting up a branch of a globally renowned museum at the airport by 2024. The study, concluded in June, found that it would not be possible to achieve it by 2024, mainly due to budget constraints, an Incheon International Airport Corp. official told The Korea Herald Tuesday.

“We started the study with the aim of setting up a global museum, but after the study was completed, we rethought the plan from the beginning, taking into consideration the budget and the type of art space that would best fit the airport,” the official said.

“We have expanded the plan to include other options. At the moment, we are thinking about a large-scale exhibition hall instead of a museum that would show a variety of works, including media art by artists from South Korea and other countries,” the official said.

Hit by the pandemic, sales at the airport plummeted to 559.4 billion won ($27.3 million) in 2021 from 2.8 trillion won in 2019, according to the airport’s management. Operating a satellite museum entails a substantial budget for royalty payments, rental and insurance fees and shipping expenses for artworks from an overseas museum.

Kim Kyung-wook, president of Incheon Airport, announced the “art-port” plan in January at a symposium at the France Pavilion during Expo 2020 Dubai. The plan was to boost cultural experiences at the airport, and one of the proposed projects was to open a branch of a renowned museum at the airport by 2024.

The airport held talks last year with officials from a number of cultural entities in Europe to explore the possibility of inviting museums such as France‘s Centre Pompidou, the Louvre Museum and the UK’s Tate Modern. The airport considered two sites within the airport, including one at Terminal 2.

Over the past few years, Incheon International Airport Corp. has strengthened the airport‘s infrastructure to offer a variety of cultural experiences. The airport opened a new space dedicated to artifacts from the National Museum of Korea in June 2021. The National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Korea and the airport jointly opened the exhibition “Warming-up” in December for travelers to appreciate works of art during their layover.

The airport is pushing for a plan to build an art storage space by 2026, offering space for art collectors and institutes. The airport is in talks with the preferred bidder for the business, according to another official.

Incheon Airport is currently conducting the Phase 4 construction plan, a project to upgrade its infrastructure, including an expansion of Terminal 2 and its parking lot, to be completed by 2024.

By Park Yuna (yunapark@heraldcorp.com)

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