A look at contemporary art in Seoul South Korea
Summer in Seoul can get a little crispy; so why not spend the better part of the day at some of the many (air-conditioned) art galleries scattered around the area of Jongno-gu. Alternatively you can walk the streets near Seongsu station and find all the hidden murals. There are many public works of art scattered all around Seoul and you simply cannot ignore the contemporary architecture that has made its mark on the city skyline. I spent a few weeks in Seoul and I absolutely fell in love with their dedication to making art accessible to everyone. There is no shortage of creative stimulation in Seoul.
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If you enjoy a day of gallery hopping then Seoul is the perfect city to do so. There are many public and privately owned art galleries within a 3km radius of Gyeongbokgung Palace.
If you are after a culturally rich day I would recommend starting your tour at Bukchon Hanok Village (북촌한옥마을). Remember this is a residential area so please be respectful of people’s everyday lives. Hanok is a restored 14th Century Korean village. The streets wind around the hilly landscape and the house’s themselves are beautiful.
In this area you will find many boutique stores and crafts. There are also a lot of privately owned art galleries you can wander.
Come back towards the ring road called Samcheong-ro (삼청로) around Gyeongbokgung Palace. Here you will walk past many galleries like MMCA Seoul (국립현대미술관 서울관), Kumho Museum of Art (금호미술), Kukje Gallery (국제갤러리) and the Gallery Hyundai (갤러리현대).
The MMCA art gallery has a sister gallery under the same name in the area of Gwacheon (국립현대미술관). Although a little farther away from the city you could spend a whole day in this area. There is also the National Science Museum and even Seoul Land (a theme park).
From the galleries in Jongno-gu; you can catch a bus towards City Hall. At this stop you will find two points of interest. The first being the the grounds and gallery at Deoksugung (덕수궁) Palace and secondly the Seoul Museum of Art.
Grab some lunch and take a moment to walk around the tranquil garden. Have a look in at the Deoksugung National Museum of Art tucked right at the back. The National Museum of Art is a branch of the National Contemporary Art Museum. Here you fill find a mix of works by Korean and international artists.
The Seoul Museum of Art is only up the road and It will not disappoint. I found this gallery to be the most impressive, not only in its contents but that architecture of the space. Many of the installations worked cohesively with the design of the building. Natural light billows through the foyer of this museum and there is plenty to peruse inside and outside the building.
Each of these galleries have their own prices with no ticket more than $15. MMCA has free admission for anyone under and including the age of 24.
During my short stay in Seoul I came to realise that art dominated the public sphere. You could walk down the street and you would quite quickly happen upon a contemporary sculpture or mural. The area of Seongsu is known for its hip demographic and of course the plethora of graffiti murals.
Take a trip down the road from Seongsu to Seoul Forest where you will find many sculptures — some of which you can climb on! Although not an artistic work — if you can find one of the many sitting streams in Seoul Forest you can dip your feet in cool running water.
Public art is everywhere in Seoul — in the doorways of buildings, on pedestrian walking plains and on the side of buildings. Keep your eyes peeled for the Gangnam Style sculpture near exit 6!
Modern architecture is at the forefront of of architectural projects in Seoul. The most famous being the Dongdaemon Design Plaza. What a magnificent building! The Design Plaza acts as a recognisable meeting point for Koreans and tourists alike. Take a walk in and around this modern masterpiece during the day and at night. This building is not an isolated case either. Modernist contemporary architecture is thriving in Seoul. Buildings in Gangnam defy gravity and the Central Post Office in Myeong-dong looks like a giant zipper.
Keep your head up high while walking the streets in Seoul, the diverse architecture will impress you!