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Food firms hope art is to diners’ tastes

Top pizza, liquor and snack houses turn to art marketing


Your eyes might be dazzled before your mouth starts to water the next time you go to a pizza place.

The seven-story Mr. Pizza building which opened in Bangbae-dong, southern Seoul, last week is part art gallery, packed with eye-catching artworks.

Mr. Pizza, which currently tops the local pizza market, renovated the building into a kind of art gallery consisting of works by around 50 established artists after consulting with Gana Art Gallery.

“I was thinking of ways to differentiate Mr. Pizza from other pizza parlors so that it lives up to its name as the industry’s No. 1, and came up with the idea of an art gallery. I plan to make every single one of our branches gallery-like so people won’t have to spare extra time to visit art galleries. It will be like having branches of Gana Art Gallery all over the country,” said Jung Woo-hyun, CEO of Mr. Pizza, told The Korea Herald.

The pizza restaurant has about 400 branches including several in China, Vietnam and the U.S.

Art-wise, the building can be broken down into three sections: the exterior which is decorated with reddish circles and yellow lines by artist Jeong Jae-ho to symbolize pizza toppings and slices; MIPIHAUS on the first and second floors and the Manoffin gallery on the basement floors. 
A view of Manoffin gallery in Bangbae-dong, Seoul. (Mr.Pizza)
A view of Manoffin gallery in Bangbae-dong, Seoul. (Mr.Pizza)

MIPIHAUS is the restaurant area where the pizzas are served. The name is a combination of “MIPI,” an abbreviation of Mr. Pizza, and “HAUS,” which means house in German. It was derived from BAUHAUS, the name of a 20th century art movement that started in Germany.

There, what was originally a glass wall has been turned into a white wall to display video artworks. Artist Kim Shin-il’s media works are currently on show. Whimsical artworks by well-known artists like Keith Haring and Sa Seok-won and up and coming artists supported by Mr. Pizza can be found on other walls and in every nook and corner of the place, including the restrooms.

Manoffin gallery is like an art gallery furnished with sofas and tables. It is a caf/gallery where visitors can buy the artworks on the walls at a reasonable price. The prices are marked next to the works as they are in art fairs. Take-out pizzas are packed in a cute paper box designed by artist Hong Myeong-hwa.

Hite Holdings, a local liquor industry leader, also stepped into art marketing last year.

It opened the “HITE Collection,” a 1,499 square-meter wide exhibition space on the three bottom floors of its headquarters in Cheongdam-dong, southern Seoul, last October. The reason the company is proceeding with a pricy art project is because they recognize the importance of art in 21st century business management, said an official from Hite Holdings.

“Louis Vuitton has become a world-class brand since collaborating with Japanese artist Murakami Takashi. The public will easily understand if a fashion house opened an art museum, but will ask again if they hear that a liquor company did so. We hope to attract visitors using the very unexpectedness,” said the official.

One cannot miss the eight-meter tall orange tornado-like installation which pierces through two floors of the exhibition space. Titled “Cause & Effect,” the work by Korean artist Suh Do Ho is composed of 110 thousand tiny male figures. At a glance, it reminds one of the small tornado formed when you swirl beer in a mug. 
“Cause & Effect” by Seo Do Ho at Hite Holdings’ headquarters. (HITE Collection)
“Cause & Effect” by Seo Do Ho at Hite Holdings’ headquarters. (HITE Collection)

HITE Collection held a five-month long opening exhibition featuring Korean sculptor Kwon Jin-kyu’s works and is currently getting ready for a second show. Park Mun-deuk, chairman of Hite-Jinro, is known to be the biggest collector of Kwon’s works.

Crown-Haitai Confectionary also runs the Qualia gallery at its headquarters since 2007. Now taking a step further into the art world, the company is constructing a 3.3 million square-meter wide total art valley in Songchu, Gyeonggi Province.

The area is seven times bigger than Heyri Art Valley in Paju, also in Gyeonggi Province, and about half the size of Yeoui-do. Yoon Young-dal, CEO of Crown-Haitai, came up with the idea in 2007.

“Some advised that I should build a golf course, but I thought it would be a much better idea to build an art park which many can enjoy,” said Yoon.

The art valley currently includes several exhibition spaces, three artist ateliers made in renovated motels, in which 13 artists are residing. There is no fixed time to complete the construction and more spaces and facilities will be built following their ideas and needs, said Kang Jong-ho, an official with the company’s marketing team.

“Snacks are dreams and a confectionary sells dreams. A confectionary that lacks sensitivity is meaningless. This is why we hope to deliver art and dream to our customers through art marketing,” said Yoon.

By Park Min-young (claire@heraldcorp.com)
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