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[Herald Review] How Kim Beom overhauls our habitual thoughts at Leeum Museum of Art

By Park Yuna

Published : July 30, 2023 - 18:30

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An installation view of An installation view of "How to become a rock" at Leeum Museum of Art (courtesy of the museum)

Conceptual artist Kim Beom’s works leave one in contemplation. His humorous and satirical works seem to say: “What you see is not all of what you see.” The exhibition, “How to become a rock,” at the Leeum Museum of Art through Dec. 3, is an excellent one for those who hope to experience art that provokes thought and questions, beyond merely being visually appealing.

Kim is little known to the average public. "How to become a rock" at the Leeum Museum of Art is the artist’s first solo exhibition in 13 years, with an extensive survey of his works produced over more than 30 years. Kim, however, is one of a few conceptual artists who are well-known in the Korean art scene.

“It took time to persuade the artist to have a show at the museum,” said Kim Sung-won, deputy director of the museum at the press opening on July 24. “Artist Kim Beom is one of the most important artists in Korea’s contemporary art scene, although he is likely not familiar to (ordinary) people."

"An Iron in the Form of a Radio, a Kettle in the Form of an Iron, and a Radio in the Form of a Kettle" by Kim Beom at the exhibition, "How to become a rock" (Park Yuna/The Korea Herald)

In one of his pieces, an iron, radio and kettle are on placed on a table. But if you take a close look at them, they are in fact different objects, as the title of the work implies, “An Iron in the Form of a Radio, a Kettle in the Form of an Iron, and a Radio in the Form of a Kettle.” Kim’s art may baffle some viewers and shatter one’s habitual ways of thinking or fixed perceptions.

Elsewhere, seeming like a mountain ridge, a black shadow painting is on display, and it is not until you find the title of the work that you realize the shape is in fact a silhouette of a car key edge. The acrylic painting, “Car key #3,” was created in 2001.

“Car key #3” by Kim Beom at the exhibition “Car key #3” by Kim Beom at the exhibition "How to become a rock" (Park Yuna/The Korea Herald)

Stepping inside a room, random daily objects are placed on a platform as if they were "seated" in a classroom, paying attention to a lecture. Standing next to those objects -- including a cup, an electric fan, a table clock, a water spray bottle -- one can listen to what the objects seem to be "learning" about while contemplating how and why the objects are placed in the ways they are.

“… It means that you can have no other meaning than the monetary value of a product. I am not trying to degrade or look down on you. You may think you are so precious beings,” a lecturer says on a television next to the chalkboard at the head of the room.

"Objects Being Taught They Are Nothing But Tools" by Kim Beom at the exhibition, "How to become a rock" (Park Yuna/The Korea Herald)

“There are also people who really care about the objects they buy. … When a company makes a profit, the owner makes money, basically it creates profit for the company that make the objects,” he continues.

Listening to the lecture, one might feel uncomfortable thinking that the content of the lecture might also be applicable to the world of humans. The title of the lecture sums up what the objects are supposed to be learning, "Objects Being Taught They Are Nothing But Tools."

"Untitled (Intimate Suffering #13)" by Kim Beom is on display at the exhibition, "How to become a rock." (Leeum Museum of Art)

A 4.9-meter tall painting of a maze, "Untitled (Intimate Suffering #13)" is also on display in the exhibition. The large-scale painting overwhelms visitors with an endless maze as if to visualize how we live our lives facing problems and finding solutions.

Created in 2014, the labor-extensive work is part of Kim's "Intimate Suffering" series he created with acrylic on canvas. The painting is collected by the M+, a new museum of visual culture in Hong Kong.

An online reservation is required to visit the exhibition. Leeum Museum of Art is run by the Samsung Foundation, located in Hannam-dong, a neighborhood in central Seoul.