No trip to Seoul is complete without a visit to Insa-dong, where you can find galleries, traditional restaurants and teahouses. Insa-dong also has every souvenir you could possibly want, from handicrafts to antiques and many random knick knacks.
Dried Organic Goods
ou can think of the galleries as the heart of Insa-dong and the teahouses as the bottom, as you're going to need to sit down after exploring everything there is to see!
There are about 100 galleries in the area, with art ranging from traditional Korean fine art to contemporary art and paintings to sculptures. Besides the art they feature, the galleries themselves are very diverse. Some only exhibit artwork, others sell. Some are free, others have an admission fee. With so many gallery offerings, there's even an "Art Gallery Tour Bus" that conveniently takes you to over 10 of the most famous galleries at a reasonable price and offers discounts at select galleries.
One sunny afternoon, I decided to take a stroll and check out the Insa-dong gallery scene. I had been Insa-dong several times before to meet friends and eat (the area is also known for its amazing pajeon, or Korean pancakes), but I had never been inside one of the art galleries.
Upon getting into the Insa-dong area, I went into the first gallery I saw: Gallery Luben.
Because of its small size, Gallery Luben felt very intimate and friendly. The artwork on display is inspired by the small island where the artist, Seon Ja Kim, lived. Her pieces depict the island during the changing of the seasons and how it changes from day to night. She uses a mix of media, such as glass and acrylic paint.
Seon Ja Kim
Seon Ja Kim
At the next gallery I went to, the artist whose work was being exhibited, Yoonbae Park, was on hand to answer questions. So, I got to hear more detail about the art pieces.
Park is a contemporary artist who integrates the Korean traditional game Ttakji into his art. His main medium is newspaper. The newspaper pages used in his work reflect various contemporary issues. He specifically picks articles that feature famous figures, politics, society, culture and more.
For example, the piece below is representative of Apple Inc. and a reflection on Steve Jobs' death. The symbolic apple is at the center and related newspaper articles flank the outer left and right borders.
According to the artist, the next piece was inspired by Yuna Kim, Korea's beloved figure skater and Olympic gold medalist.
Close up of the "Ttakji Media Art"
Soon, I was famished. After visiting the galleries, I found a traditional Korean restaurant tucked into an alleyway, and wearily stepped in.
This large yet healthy meal helped me regain the energy I needed to march out and continue my gallery adventure. ^^
About the authorby Donna Choi
Born and raised in the States, I came to Seoul in 2009 and have loved living and working in such a high-tech and connected city ever since. I enjoy collecting unique, cute gadgets/items (I have a bread-scented smartphone case!) and traveling around Korea. My personal mission while living in Korea: Try every type of Korean food known to exist.
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