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“Girogi” exhibition questions status of art galleries

As visitors approach the exhibition space of “Girogi,” they can hear the fluttering wings of birds. However, as soon as they enter, they encounter a nearly empty space, where there is nothing but different types of birds embossed on the walls. Visitors are left puzzled, trying to figure out what the exhibition is about.

Artist Kim Min-ae’s exhibition “Girogi” -- translates to “wild goose” in English -- which kicked off at Atelier Hermes on March 15, sets out to play and explore the exhibition space, posing a question that she has long asked: What exactly constitutes or makes art?


An installation view of Kim Min-ae’s exhibition “Girogi” (Atelier Hermes)
An installation view of Kim Min-ae’s exhibition “Girogi” (Atelier Hermes)

The show takes off with Kim’s anecdote involving pigeons. All works on exhibit feature shapes of various birds including a sparrow, a seagull and a chicken. But there appears to be no logical link among the different types of birds. They do not add up to create a meaning. The birds just sit on the gallery walls as if they are unable to fly.

“The birds in the gallery are tamed ones, and not those found in mythologies,” curator Kim Yun-kyung said in a statement. The wild geese that visitors expect to see are not there.

“I wanted my works not to serve as works of art. I wanted to create the impression of the exhibition space being empty. There, I wanted to once again ask about the moment and conditions that turn an object into an object of art,” artist Kim Min-ae said.

Kim’s previous exhibitions have meticulously experimented with the spaces that house arts. To Kim, an exhibition space is a problematic space because it has become a framework to define art -- a Duchampian question. The mythical status that galleries have achieved in the arts scene is what Kim seeks to challenge.

Artist Kim Min-ae (Atelier Hermes)
Artist Kim Min-ae (Atelier Hermes)

“I started art when I was a high school student. By then, art, to me, meant something which required rigorous formal training. It felt like I was who I was because I was disciplined as such,” Kim said. “I was not born to be an artist, and the same applies to art objects, I once thought.”

“(Since then,) questioning the circumstances and conditions that make art has remained something that I should not overlook as an artist and also as the person Kim Min-ae,” she added.

To avoid the usual atmosphere of an exhibition space, the artist uses lighting that pans like a lighthouse. The lightning reveals the birds embossed on the walls at intervals, instead of constantly highlighting the objects as is often the case during exhibitions. 

An installation view of Kim Min-ae’s exhibition “Girogi” (Atelier Hermes)
An installation view of Kim Min-ae’s exhibition “Girogi” (Atelier Hermes)

It would not be the first time that exhibitiongoers are faced with an empty gallery, Atelier Hermes curator Kim said.

Michael Asher had also presented an empty gallery with nothing to look at, though the audience came to see artworks, at the Toselli Gallery in Milan in 1973 and at the Claire Copley Gallery in Los Angeles in 1974.

“Kim Min-ae’s gallery -- with not much to look at -- is her own way of responding to such precedents,” the curator added.

“If I had tried to approach my works with rationale in the past, for this exhibition (at Atelier Hermes), I have tried to break away from that and fill the exhibition with something very trivial and irrational,” artist Kim said.

“Girogi” runs through May 13.

By Shim Woo-hyun (

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