South Korean artists topping the ranks

Welcome to the new year!Over here in Berlin, it’s still grey, it’s still cold and we’re still locked down, so we thought we’d take you travelling instead to the beautiful, bountiful in culture, art, fashion, and bibimbap: South Korea.

That’s right, it’s time for the next of our ‘Top Male and Female Artists From’ series. This week, let us introduce to you: Nam June Paik, ranked 30 globally, and No. 1 in South Korea And Haegue Yang, ranked 145 globally and No. 2 in South Korea.

As is often the case, it is artists who are the visionaries, shaping the way we see and experience the world around us, and in some cases, even predicting or shaping the future.

Nam June Paik, is one such creative. Originally a classical pianist, he became a pioneer of tv and video art. He also predicted the internet- coining the phrase “electronic superhighway”, as well as smart phones, Youtube, and global media. Artist’s minds, eh? Brilliant. Korean born, he lived and worked in Japan, Germany and the United States. Perhaps it was this globality that inspired him to create “Good Morning Mr Orwell” an international satellite ‘installation’ on New years day, 1984 (Yes, 1984). Connecting New york, Paris, and broadcasters in Germany and South Korea, reaching 25 Million viewers worldwide. As a Fluxus original member he was collaborative peers with the likes of Artist Joseph Beuys, Composer John Cage and Cellist and performance artist, Charlotte Moorman. Nam June Paik passed away in 2006.

Haegue Yang works with a wide range of media from collage to performance, her creations often contain objects of daily use from venetian blinds (recurringly) to clothing racks to exhaust fans to bells. Yang frees the objects from their original purpose by rearranging them into abstract compositions and places them into often multisensory environments. “Abstraction enables me to work through individual and collective narratives across history in a non-linear or elastic manner.” She has exhibited everywhere from the Guggenheim to the Pompidou and represented Korea in the 53rd Venice Biennale. The turbulent stories of artists whose lives see-saw between art and politics have been a major influence on her, such as that of the Korean composer Isang Yun. Quite elegantly though, these influences materialize as shadows in her work, you catch just a breath, perhaps as the exhaust fan blows in your direction.

When comparing the two artists, there are a number of similarities. Both have lived and studied in Germany- coming from a country that was divided in two by a war, and moving to another that was as well. Both have exhibited extensively internationally, and both have combined multiple media and art forms in their work; including a predilection for performance and installation art.

Another fun little connection we found when looking at artfacts data at the beginning of the rise in Yang’s ranking, (which is pretty exceptionally exponential since coming onto the scene) in 2002, she participated in the group exhibition: 40 Jahre: Fluxus und die Folgen at the Nassauischer Kunstverein in Wiesbaden Germany. The Fluxus generation continues…

There you have it, just a teeny tiny taster of these two talented artists’ careers. But these aren’t the only incredible artists from South Korea, there are so many more to discover, as well as curators and institutions, just go to the country page on Artfacts. Curiosity piqued? The data at Artfacts is just waiting for you to dive in deeper.

Haegue Yang, Sonic Coupe Copper – Enclosed Unity  2019, Powder-coated steel frame, powder-coated mesh, powder-coated handles, ball bearing, casters, copper plated bells, metal rings
Nam June Paik Internet Dream 1994, 52 monitors together forming a large unified image surface on which a shifting patchwork of electronically-processed images from three separate video sources

Let’s make history happen.

The Artfacts Team