[IRONY & IDEALISM] Irony & Idealism

Gyeonggi Museum of Modern art


This catalogue is published in conjunction with 2017-2018 Korea–Germany Contemporary Art Exchange Exhibition Irony & Idealism. It documents all exhibitions and artworks at 3 venues in Korea and Germany-Gyeonggi Museum of Modern Art, KF Gallery and Kunsthalle Münster-from September 2017 until September 2018.

Gregor Jansen(Director, Kunsthalle Düsseldorf)


Collaboration always means productive cooperation as well as dealing with problems that arise, making compromises, and most of all confronting goal-oriented challenges. This was also the case for Transfer Korea NRW (2011-2013), which served as the role model for Irony & Idealism. Three museums in NRW and three museums in Seoul took part in the ninth of a series of exchanges, which the NRW-KULTURsekretariat has been conducting with partner institutions since 1990. This first exchange with a non-European country gave rise to a particularly exciting and demanding transcultural dialogue. Each museum developed their own parallel exhibition, which made visible the similarities and differences of the two art contexts using the positions of the fourteen South Korean and NRW artists selected by the jury.


Encouraged by this, Eunju CHOI and Yoonseo KIM, director and curator at the Gyeonggi Museum of Modern Art, met with me in 2016. They were planning a second Transfer, for which my experience would be helpful. After a few tricky procedures and complex negotiations, a renewed partnership between Korea and Germany emerged: Irony & Idealism. Each of the three exhibition venues in South Korea and Münster would host exhibitions of four internationally renowned South Korean and German artists, featuring both new and existing works. The first-rate contributions of Ahn Jisan, Bae Young-Whan, Björn Dahlem, Gimhongsook, Hwayeon Nam, Michael van Ofen, Manfred Pernice, and Yoon Jongsuk range from painting and sculpture to video and conceptual installation art.



Gimhongsok, S olitude of Silence (in Korea) resin, clothes, fabric, 2017


In a concrete sense, the exhibition concept is organized around how South Korean and German artists reflect on their own history, culture, idioms, and sociality, but also the cliches that surround these phenomena and how their respective views on life are connected. Irony & Idealism questions the diverse possibilities for expression in an ostensibly global artistic lan-guage, grounded in the sense of a divided country—a divided nation—like Germany following 1945. The dichotomy between irony and idealism—dignity and mockery—suggested in the title, lends the cultural exchange and dialogue between the different contributions a critical potential, especially for those South Korean artists who have studied in the United States, Europe, and Germany in particular. The exhibition Irony & Idealism thereby addresses the conflicts that arise within a global system from the loss of identity, cultural displacement, and enforced conformity. If togetherness is the precondition of peaceful coexistence and capitalism and consumption stand in conflict with that, then what happens to the human need for autonomy, differentiation, and individuality? What happens to the diversity of cultures and traditions—a diversity of peoples? And if the other is the same as me, where could this “I” look to see something more than simply its own reflection? Who and what am I, and who and what is the other?


There are significant differences in the various connections between the two regions, which not only reveal major points of contrast in the dimensions of the two cities, but also reveal an alignment of hopes, desires, irritations, and human problems faced there just as they are faced here. In that regard, I searched for an exhibition concept in which a similar scenario of belief, ideal, and philosophical interrogation of our lived reality could be described through dialogue and an exchange of ideas.



Björn Dahlem, Milky Way wood, steel, pebble stones, varnish, 175×260×40cm, Courtesy of the artist and Sies+Höke, Düsseldorf, 2010


As an exchange between two countries and institutions, and more importantly between the eight artists and the discourses brought together in the exhibition, this project is an expression of this belief and principle of hope. My first thanks therefore goes to you all for the exceptional exhibition and the many encounters and experiences it entailed. An equally important and sincere thanks goes to the initiators of this venture, the director of the Gyeonggi Museums of Modern Art, Choi Eunju, and its curator, Kim Yoonseo, as well as the Korea Foundation in Seoul. I was particularly pleased that the Kunsthalle Münster agreed to cooperate as a partner and the exhibition’s German station. Here, I would especially like to thank the Kunsthalle’s director, Gail B. Kirkpatrick. Everyone deserves a warm thank you for the productive, constructive, and always harmonious collaboration, which the current exhibition and catalogue is impressive proof of. I am personally happy and thankful to have been a part of it from the start. Gamsahamnida! Tto man-na-yo! Jeoneun hangugeoreul hal jul moreumnida.


Exhibition scene

#Gyeonggi Museum of Modern art #Germany Contemporary Art #KF Gallery #Kunsthalle Münster

@Gregor Jansen

    • IRONY & IDEALISM

      Publisher/ Sul Wonki

      Chief Editor/ Choi Eunju

      First Edition/ July 31. 2018

      Published by/ Gyeonggi Museum of Modern Art

    • List of Artists/ Ahn Jisan, Bae Young-whan, Björn Dahlem, Gimhongsok, Hwayeon Nam, Michael van Ofen, Manfred Pernice, Yoon Jongsuk

  • ggc

    Writer/ GyeongGi Cultural Foundation

    About/ Everything about the GyeongGi arts and culture, GGCF

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