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[Herald Interview] Kim Ji-eun dedicates 'Dear Collector' to friends, art lovers

By Park Yuna

Published : Feb. 20, 2024 - 17:12

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"Dear Collector," written by Kim Ji-eun and published by Art Books (Art Books)

It is art that "collects people," rather than people who collect art, says Kim Ji-eun, who holds the belief that people are connected through sharing art and their personal tastes.

It took almost four years for the former anchorperson to release her 549-page book, “Dear Collector,” as her idea for the project first arose during the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic.

During that period of unprecedented isolation, Kim sought to make connections with other people, she recalled. Kim, who had started to collect art in 1992, reached out to friends in the US and South Korea who shared her particular passion.

“I have friends who feel they are connected to each other through art,” said Kim in an interview with The Korea Herald on Feb. 2 in Seoul. “We could not visit each other (during the pandemic), so I wanted to know how those friends were overcoming that difficult period and how we could communicate through art.”

Kim Ji-eun (Kim Ji-eun) Kim Ji-eun (Kim Ji-eun)

Kim started her career as an anchorperson for MBC in 1992. She remembers the first work of art she collected -- it was a piece by Kwak Nam-sin, which she purchased within a year of saving up. Kim's passion for art led her to pursue a master's degree in art at Hongik University and at Christie’s Education in New York.

“Dear Collector” details the various stories of 21 of Kim's friends, inviting readers into their homes and introducing 460 unique works of art.

As they delve into the book, readers may feel as if they are touring the collectors' own space and that they have formed a strong bond with each of them.

“Many friends told me they could overcome the challenges in their life during the pandemic by looking at the artworks in their homes,” Kim said.

Linda Rosen's living room shows paintings by George Condo and Nicholas Party. (Paul Roh) Linda Rosen's living room shows paintings by George Condo and Nicholas Party. (Paul Roh)

Her four-year journey to publish the book was not easy, and there was a moment when Kim wanted to give up on writing it. As the pandemic peaked, people became reluctant to visit other people's homes, including photographers. Most of the photos in the book were taken by Kim's friends in their homes, and hundreds of emails were exchanged, she recalled.

During the writing of the book, Kim learned that one of her close friends, Larry, had passed away from cancer. A story about Larry and his wife, Carol, appears in the last chapter. Although Kim and Larry had a bit of an age gap, he was her best friend, and he helped her adjust to life in New York.

“He took all the photographs (of his art) sitting in a wheelchair, and I did not know because he did not tell me what he was going through. It was really hard to continue this book when I learned the tragic news,” she said.

“I made up my mind to finish the book as I thought of my friend, who might have wanted to work on the book together as the last project in his life. I wanted to share what he said about his art with the world.”

Kim finished the book in November and it was published in December 2023.

Kim said she loves to collect art because artwork contains the world and story of the artist, be it the artist's perception or life story.

“Say you buy a small drawing and hang it on the wall in a small room. Then it is not a small room anymore,” Kim said, "the space expands with the world of the artist who created the work."