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[Herald Interview] Kimsooja expands Bottari philosophy with vast mirror installation

Korean artist's 'To Breathe - Constellation' runs at The Pinault Collection until Sept. 2

By Park Ga-young

Published : May 13, 2024 - 15:57

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Artist Kimsooja (right) and Culture Minister Yu In-chon talk inside The Rotunda of the Bourse de Commerce in Paris, France on May 2, where Kimsooja's carte blanche project Artist Kimsooja (right) and Culture Minister Yu In-chon talk inside The Rotunda of the Bourse de Commerce in Paris, France on May 2, where Kimsooja's carte blanche project "To Breathe -- Constellation" is on display. (Culture Ministry)

PARIS, France -- The building in the heart of Paris that once housed the Paris Chamber of Commerce and the Paris Stock Exchange was transformed into a contemporary art museum, the Pinault Collection, in 2021, with renovations by architect Tadao Ando.

At the center of the building is a rotunda 29 meters across whose floor is covered a total of 418 mirrors.

The mirrors are an installation entitled "To Breathe -- Constellation,” by South Korean artist Kim Soo-ja, who professionally goes by Kimsooja.

Kimsooja immediately came up with the idea of covering the floor with mirrors when she was offered a carte blanche project by the Pinault Collection.

The 67-year-old multi-disciplinary conceptual artist explained that she considers the dome a bottari, meaning “bundle” in Korean, which has been her central artistic theme for 40 years. Bottari is created by gathering a person’s most important possessions inside a wrapping cloth.

“I tried to wrap and protect human memories, bodily memories and the sorrows of life with humanity (with bottari series). I consider the building itself as an architectural bottari, filling the space entirely with light, space and reflections," Kim said.

"Deductive Objects - Bottari" (2019) by Kimsooja is displayed at the Bourse de Commerce in Paris, France, on May 2. (Park Ga-young/The Korea Herlad)

“This is also connected to the recently showcased moon jar bottari. To create a moon jar bottari, two vases are needed, and these two vases ultimately form a dome. The two inverted domes are connected to each other,” she said, adding that she has discovered an interesting point in finding the formal or philosophical connection between the seemingly different journeys of mirror and ceramic works.

Visitors entering the Rotunda react in different ways: Some capture the moment with photos, others rest on the mirrored floor, while many gaze upward to admire the panoramic fresco depicting scenes of worldwide trade, or the expansive domed glass dome through which natural light floods the space, enhancing a sense of openness and airiness of the space.

Vistors are seen inside The Rotunda of the Bourse de Commerce in Paris, France on May 2, where Kimsooja's carte blanche project Vistors are seen inside The Rotunda of the Bourse de Commerce in Paris, France on May 2, where Kimsooja's carte blanche project "To Breathe -- Constellation" is on display. (Park Ga-young/The Korea Herald)

Their reactions, for Kimsooja, seem like a series of performances.

“Observing their movements and reactions, it seems as though they are performers,” Kim said.

“Through a mirror that reflects one's entire body from below -- different from ordinary mirrors -- and the reflection of the heavenly dome in the background, individuals deeply become aware of their bodies, movements, and themselves through the reflection. Everyone appears to become very self-expressive in front of the mirror,” Kim said.

Emma Lavigne, the head of the Pinault Collection, said that the exhibition has been a "phenomenon."

"Tadao Ando designed the exterior, and Kimsooja composed an interactive exhibition, creating a 'dialogue' between the two. Since the opening of Kimsooja's exhibition, it has been tremendously successful, to the extent that it can be described as a phenomenon," she said.

Culture Minister Yu In-chon (right) and artist Kimsooja view Kimsooja's exhibition at the Bourse de Commerce in Paris, France, on May 2.(Culture Ministry) Culture Minister Yu In-chon (right) and artist Kimsooja view Kimsooja's exhibition at the Bourse de Commerce in Paris, France, on May 2.(Culture Ministry)

Along with the vast mirror installation, 24 works of Kimsooja’s bottari and objects are displayed around the Rotunda, along with 44 other pieces including meta-paintings and video works like "A Needle Woman" shown in the underground exhibition hall.

The exhibition, part of “Le monde comme il va,” meaning “The World As It Goes” in English, runs until Sept. 2.

Opened in May 2021, the Pinault Collection holds more than 10,000 pieces of modern and contemporary art.