Seoul is Museum

Artist: Public Art Business Group of Seoul Metropolitan Government
Location: Various districts in Seoul, South Korea
Year: 2016
Researcher: Cho Hyejung

Seoul Is Museum (홍제유연) is a project through which the city of Seoul seeks to infuse fresh artistic imagination and a humanised atmosphere into the urban space, preserve the history and memory of the place, and strive to create a city where citizens have a sense of intimacy and security, and allow citizens to become the masters of the city. With this purpose in mind, the Seoul Is Museum project, has launched numerous projects since 2016, with the Harmony & Connectivity project, which was launched in 2019, is considered a representative example that best embodies the project's purpose. The project redeveloped a space that had been abandoned for half a century and remodelled it into a neighbourhood that showcases public art, which gives new life to the abandoned places through public art.

Seoul Is Museum annually selects spaces with historical significance that have been forgotten and presents public art programs based on the local history and stories inherent in the locality, using public art as a medium to give new value to the space, and providing the public with the opportunity to enjoy art in familiar, everyday spaces.

Seoul Is Museum is a public art project, and part of an urban regeneration agenda. The project is achieved through the expertise, advice and collaboration of people in various fields such as administrators, artists, designers, and architects.

The site selected in 2019, Yujin Mall, is a historically significant building that represents the rapid rise of Korea' economy and industrialisation in the 1970s, as well as the history of the the separation between the north and the south. Constructed in the 1970s, the building was the first luxury commercial and residential building in the city of Seoul, and also played an essential role in the military defence against the North Korean incursions southward during the period of North-South Korean tensions. At that time, the Hongjecheon River ran underneath the building, and in preparation for a potential invasion by North Korean tanks, and 100 pillars were raised along the river to support the building and serve as a protective base. The side of the river, which was originally used for people's mobility, has been used as a protective base and access to it has been prohibited for the past 50 years.

In 2019, as part of Seoul's art museum project, the Harmony & Connectivity project was carried out to remodel this space along the river (abandoned for 50 years) into a place where citizens can enjoy the culture. Public artworks using a variety of media such as sound, light, video, and installation were displayed along this 200-meter-long abandoned riverside. Among them, the 100 pillars which were built for military protection at that time were combined with new media art to provide a unique art experience that had never been seen before. Yujin Mall and the long-neglected Hongjecheon River area were remodelled and reborn as places where citizens can enjoy art, i.e., the space that once symbolised the division between the North and the South, and carried the history of Korea's modern misery, has become a cultural space, a place of rest and healing for people.

Seoul Is Museum, symbolising "harmony and connection," has been understood as having great meaning since the official opening to the public on the occasion of the 70th anniversary of the outbreak of the Korean War.

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The selection and artist recruitment for this project were conducted through an open call. There are two methos used for the open call.

First, artists interested in participating can personally search for a site suitable for a public art project and submit a project proposal that is compatible with that site.

Secondly, the participating artists were expected to choose from the sites among the 25 autonomous regions in Seoul, and to submit a proposal for the planning of relevant art projects

Types of works solicited in the call:

- Public Art Works
- Create new spaces through artworks
- Improve the urban environment
- Public art projects in which the public can participate

Eligibility for participation requires an artist or team of artists of Korean nationality, with at least one prior exhibition on record. The call is open to professionals, but university professors, staff, and college students are not eligible.

The criteria for review are based on originality, artistry, and publicity, and participating artists are selected after three rounds of review.

In the case of Hongji-Yuyeon, a representative example of the Seoul Is Museum project, the area surrounding the project, Hongji-dong, is a major residential area in the western region of Seoul and has a dense population. However, compared to other areas, this region has relatively poor cultural and artistic infrastructure and a relative lack of cultural and artistic facilities. Due to the large population, the area often faces serious traffic congestion problems, which leads to a relatively negative image. In addition, the lack of basic cultural facilities for the residents makes it more difficult to attract residents from other areas to visit.

However, the Hongji-Yuyeon Project, which was successfully promoted in 2019, has met the demand for culture and art among local residents. In addition, the area has begun to be recognised for its cultural and artistic attraction, attracting more visits from citizens of other areas, leading to the rise of new restaurants and cafes, and transforming the originally residential-centered area into a new tourist destination, contributing to the revitalisation of the area's economy and the improvement of its image.

Progress Agency