Go to contents

Shortage of talents in Korean art scene

Posted June. 12, 2015 07:23,   


Sir Nicholas Serota has been the director of the Tate, the U.K. art gallery in London which draws the biggest number of visitors than any other galleries in the world, for 27 years. It has been 20 years since Glenn Lowry became the director of the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the center of world’s modern art. What is their secret for such a prolonged leadership in the notable art museums? It is because those museums select capable talents and give sufficient time to bear fruit. Thanks to such patient and trust from the museums, those two have never missed the Power 100, a list of top 100 influential figures in the world art scene, named by the art magazine Art Review since 2002.

Controversy is growing in the Korea’s art world over appointment of the director at the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art (MMCA). The selection process that started in January to fill in the director position of MMCA, which has been empty for eight months, returned to the beginning. On June 9, the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism decided to scrap the recruitment process that has been going on over the past four months and start a new hiring process from scratch. In response, Choi Hyo-jun, the former director of Gyeonggi Museum of Modern Art, held a press conference on June 10 and blamed the culture minister Kim Jong-deok for not embracing a person who stands on the other side of him, calling the minister a ‘psychopath in the cultural sector.’ Choi, who majored in economics at Seoul National University and studied art in the U.S., raised an issue over the strong school ties centering on Hongik University in the domestic art scene. As the art scene is divided by two major factions based on school ties, between Seoul National University and Hongik University, Choi pointed out that the personnel appointment by the culture minister, a graduate of Hongik University, is based on school ties.

“Qualification issues were raised while collecting opinions from the art circles and Choi failed to pass the internal verification,” said an official from the ministry. It is true that some cases of art personnel appointment raised questions when the final candidates were known to the public. However, it is a serious issue that the culture ministry’s arbitrary personnel administration continuously causes troubles, including the controversial appointment of head of the Korea National Opera.

Some lament for the shortage of talents in the domestic art arena. Some suggest adoption of the appointment system instead of the public recruitment system, or scouting of a new art figure, who is like Uli Stielike, the soccer coach who fundamentally reformed the Korea’s national soccer team. It remains questionable how much time will be wasted to select a director for a two-year term. Regardless of who is appointed to lead the national museum, worries are growing over how he or she overcomes chronic school connection and faction feud in the domestic art world.