Saturday, September 03, 2005


Today, Jinwoo (Lupina) Kim (one of Professor Choi’s former students and organizers for this event and Boyoung Kim, Mr. Ahn’s assistant who works for the American Hardwood Exports Council (my hosts) took the day off to take Alessandro and I out on a tour. We all met at my hotel and then took a cab to Leeum Museum – the Samsung president’s name is Lee and he collects art and opened a museum with only his collection in it – and the museum is a combination of his name and “museum”. I don’t understand why he couldn’t just call it the Samsung Museum.

It was a brand new museum. Designed by three architects, Mario Botta, Jean Nouvel and Rem Koolhaas. The design of the museum was an interesting combination of the very different architects’ vision – the Botta section was a little boring – reminded me of a cross between the SF MOMA and the Guggenheim in NY. The Nouvel section was interesting in that it was architectural but incorporated organic elements such as rocks, trees, etc. The Koolhaas section was closed for an installation but was very angular and a little on the cold side, reminiscent of the 60’s.

The museum collection was impressive in that it is a personal collection but as far as museums go its rather predictable collection. Went through all the levels quickly, nothing really exciting to recall at the moment. The only piece that I can recall is a Louise Bourgouis (sp) and a homeboy’s work, a Nam Jun Paik piece.

Afterwards we had lunch at a very nice little restaurant – it was not exactly a vegetarian restaurant but it struck me as being healthful with lots of tofu and kim chee. I admit that I was pretty burned out all day and straining to hear everyone talk all day was hard and I pretty much gave up at 11 AM. I was happy enough to just follow everyone around. Next, Boyoung had to go back to work and so it was the three of us – Lupina (she is Catholic and prefers to go by her given Catholic name – Catholicism makes up a small percentage of the population but the presence of nuns and churches makes it quite visible) decides that it would be ‘fun’ for us to go on the subway. I was frankly too tired to be dealing with this but whatever. To make matters worse we got lost and so we were walking all over the place. No big deal but its no fun fighting the crowds and the subway was hot, stinky and crowded, like NYC in July. It was no different than the Tokyo subways. We finally got to our destination, Namsan Folk Village and just as we arrived a dance performance was about to start. I wish I asked what kind of performance it was – I suspect it may have been a summer celebratory dance or some sort, and it definitely was a folk dance. It was a very happy and joyous dance, all the dancers looked very happy and enthusiastic, big smiles and with sincerity. The audience was also very involved and cheered the dancers – a wonderful expressive group altogether, very different from the somber serious Japanese performances I have seen. (other than Taiko) – Speaking of taiko, this group had a wonderful percussion group – small hourglass shaped drums, some cymbal-like instruments. The costumes were brightly colored. After standing and watching for a while (I was mesmerized and drawn in by the happiness that exuded from the troupe) we went to look at the folk houses – the construction of these houses are up on stilts kind of, some similarities to Japanese structures but with a stucco like substance on the outer walls – the shapes of the houses were varied with a porch around the circumference, and no sliding doors. The striking difference between these Korean houses and the Japanese structures is the presence of furniture. I saw examples of large chests, tables, chairs and stools. Japanese spaces are nearly empty and minimal by contrast. Again as mentioned before the furniture is much like the Chinese furniture that I have recently seen. Outside the buildings I saw groups of large ceramic vessels, all of a brown colored clay body and about 4’ tall – for Kim Chee. After browsing through the village, we went back out where the troupe was STILL DANCING – god they must be exhausted.

Next we went to Insadong, the equivalent of Tokyo’s Asakusa but more modernized. Apparently at one time it was more village-like and picturesque but now it seems that the buildings are all new. At that point Jinwoo, I mean, Lupina, had to head back home, she lives about and hour and a half from Seoul – and I can tell Alessandro was anxious to get back to the hotel since he was flying back to Milan the next morning. We did a little bit of shopping and then we parted ways. I knew I was going to come back here with the Lees (Christine’s parents) the next day so I just browsed a little and headed home.

I can’t remember what I did for dinner that night – OH yes I went to Lotte department store, which was only a few blocks away and had a hunch that maybe the department stores here in Seoul are like the ones in Tokyo: with huge food sections in the basement. My hunch proved to be correct and boy was I happy. Even the food is nearly the same – sushi, pickled everything, kim chee, chicken skewers etc. I got myself a huge selection of foods and a big bottle of water and hauled it back to the hotel room. I would venture to say that the Korean sushi is even better.


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