Cone-shaped sculpture in Seoul © 2010 David Richler. All rights reserved.

Sculpting Public Space

Public Art in Seoul

As Geneviève and I roamed around Seoul during our first few days in South Korea we noticed that there was an unusually large number of sculptures  displayed in front of office buildings and shoppings malls, in addition to the standard kind found in public squares and parks. It seemed like every large building had to come with a , some kind of statement piece, and we couldn’t figure out why. After digging around Wikepedia I found an article called public art in Korea, which provided an explaination for what we had been observing. As Seoul was preparing for the 1988 Olympic games, South Korea passed the Art Decoration Law for buildings, a national cultural policy that made it mandatory to allocate 0.7% of the construction costs of a new building to artworks for public view. While you might think that most of these pieces would be boring and uninspired corporate art, we found that while there are plenty of eyesores around the city, the policy has nevertheless produced quite a few interesting pieces.

Below you can see a good example of what I’m talking about.

That’s Geneviève crouching in the lower left corner to give you an idea of the size of this piece. Situated in front of the Hana Bank’s head office, it was designed by Wonsuk Han, and is titled “Rebirth.” Using discarded automobile headlights, Han recreated Cheomseongdae (below), the oldest existing astronomical observatory in Asia, which was constructed during the reign of queen Seondeok of the Silla Dynasty (632-647). Wikipedia has some good info about the observatory here.

Refer to the images below for a selection of other public sculptures that we found interesting, odd, or otherwise noteworthy – or you can head on over to my Flickr page to view the images as a slideshow. Keep in mind we didn’t see the entire city, but only a small portion of it. In other words, we may have missed the best ones. We’ll look out for more next time we visit Seoul, that’s for sure.

Click to enlarge.