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[Opinion] Oldenberg in Cheonggyecheon

Posted November. 17, 2005 07:58,   


Seeking the “right to enjoy a cultural life” is in vogue these days. Those living in the regional areas should enjoy high-class culture as much as those living in Seoul, and more people should have access to performance halls and art centers. The surging crowds visiting Cheonggyecheon and the new National Museum are evidence to the increase in demand for culture and leisure. Leader of local government bodies are zealously building cultural facilities and hosting cultural events. In France, the “cultural strong power,” this trend has a term: “cultural democratization.”

There is word that American pop artist Claes Oldenberg will install one of his works at the Cheonggye Plaza, which is located at the mouth of Cheonggyecheon. Pop art is a modern art genre that developed around New York in the 1960s. It is a type of art that, as the name literally suggests, seeks intimacy with the masses. The most famous pop art is the arrangement of dozens of Marilyn Monroe’s faces made by Andy Warhol. Some doubt whether this can be called art or not, but contained within pop art is the dark side of a mass media society and mass-consumerism and a satire of these.

Oldenburg, age 76, has produced outdoor sculptures that are enlarged reproductions of everyday objects such as ice cream cones, saws, hamburgers, and clothespins. The “ice cream cone” is placed upside-down on top of a building, humoring the passersby down on the street. Oldenburg has stepped away from the recondite type of art that must be regarded with a solemn expression, and instead attempted a kind of art that can be enjoyed with the mass. It is a revolt against the preexisting art that seeks philosophy and mentality of high degrees.

His works were installed in various cities around the world, taking place as an urban symbol. However, some are arguing that his installation would not fit the historical meaning of the restoration of Cheonggyecheon. Such arguments are welcome anytime, but it is hard to understand how certain parties could accuse Oldenberg of spearheading the diffusing of industrial capitalism. He has contributed to the “cultural democratization” that has brought art and the mass together. What kind of work he will place in Cheonggyecheon is not decided yet, but it will certainly be worth it if it manages to present those who love Cheonggyecheon with a moment of cultural leisure.

Hong Chan-shik, Editorial writer, chansik@donga.com