|[Koreatimes] From 3D quirk to cat craze: finding Hongdae\'s Santorini
From 3D quirk to cat craze: finding Hongdae\’s Santorini
By Ines Min
Hongdae might best be known for its vivid nightlife, alternative art galleries and winding streets of cafes, but the home of a relaxing island of quirky art fun?
Santorini Seoul opened its doors last month to provide exactly that. The multi-functional art space caters to both young and adult audiences, with its trompe l’oeil museum, three galleries, a cat museum and even an “open-air” cafe within its large 2,300-square-meter underground confines.
The museum offers an introduction to the technique of trompe l’oeil, or the use of viscerally realistic imagery that creates an optical illusion on flat surfaces. Also known as “trick of the eye” art, the style was recognized in the Baroque period but dates further back into Grecian and Roman times.
The space is the first permanent museum to provide an introduction to trompe l’oeil in Seoul, which has seen a surge of popularity with short-lived touring exhibitions last year. Visitors can walk through the museum taking photos with the artwork, seemingly at one with the detailed images.
It took 15 artists the span of four months to complete the work, which ranges from scenes of a shopping spree, dog walking and traditional Korean royal portraits. Photo tips, standby staff to take pictures and floor markers encourage interactivity, which is the goal, curator Kim Hyun said.
“There isn’t really an open culture space like this in Hongdae,” Kim told The Korea Times at the art center, Tuesday. “Viewers can appreciate the artwork in a relaxed way.”
Such is the point of the entire Greek theme of Santorini (the cafe even boasts a marble fountain). The large-scale basement formerly housed a public sauna and bath, Kim explained, and was a humid, dingy space. The renovations saw the installation of smooth concrete floors, bright paint colors, warehouse lighting and plenty of open floor plans — the result is a flawless transformation from the grating winter winds above.
“Actually, our entire staff really likes Santorini,” Kim said of the center’s inspiration. “It’s bright, it’s warm… this building is old, but when people enter we wanted to give them that feeling of comfort.”
In keeping with the unique theme, art galleries one and three are currently showcasing the work of cartoonist Lee Woo-il, whose comic strip “Donald Chicken” drew acclaim for its wit and light-hearted humor. Lee reinterprets classic artwork in his own style, simplifying Van Gogh’s “Sunflowers” and Gustav Klimt’s “The Kiss” with a local spin (he also redoes Hopper’s “Nighthawks” as “3 in the Morning in Front of Hongdae”).
Gallery two continues in the trompe l’oeil vein, dedicated to 26-year-old Yun Da-mi, an emerging artist. Updating the technique for a modern feminine audience, the artist explores delicacy and fragility in her vibrant composition of “Neo-vanitas.” The crisp shells of macaroons decorate a multi-tiered cake, designer shoes, flowers and various confectioneries lay artfully arranged.
Each brushstroke depicts movement, such as the momentous swirling of champagne in a glass, the slow melt of an ice cream sundae.
While artists around the world paint entire building murals to transform a space, Yun sticks with a personal intimacy that almost urges viewers to pluck one of the delectable sweets from off the canvas.
The cat museum is possibly the most idiosyncratic exhibition hall of the center. Dedicated to artists who focus their work on cats, an archive of related relics and Parisian-esque collages a la Toulouse Lautrec cover the walls.
“Cats are really trendy for youths these days,” Kim said, as evident even through the number of cat cafes in the Hongdae area. “There are a lot less artists that focus on dogs.”
Kim said Santorini Seoul eventually hopes to network and branch out in other places, such as Jeju or possibly even to the real Santorini. Though they only just opened, weekend crowds of 400 to 500 have been coming to explore the space, which also closes late to accommodate office workers.
Located a short walk from exit 9 of Hongik Univ. Station on subway line 2. General admission to the trompe l’oeil museum is 10,000 won, while most of the art galleries are free of charge. Yun and Lee’s exhibitions will be on display through Jan. 11.
For more information, visit www.santoriniseoul.com.
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