Art flourishes in Ilsan's coffee shops'Tis the season that makes you hunch and turn up the lapels of your coat. It makes you wish you were sitting by a roaring fire with a warm cup of coffee, perhaps leisurely looking at paintings.
No need to venture far. There are a few gallery cafes in Ilsan, just north of Seoul, where you can leave the cold and your everyday worries outside while you step in to admire the pictures on the walls and warm your toes. You can even buy the paintings if you like. Here's a quick tour of three gallery cafes in Ilsan.
11 Wol Bi (November Rain)
You can sense that 11 Wol Bi (031-903-0767) in Baiksuk-dong is an arty place from the entrance. Paintings are arrayed on the wall along the rustic brick stairs that lead down into the cafe. Push open the country-style wooden door and you will find yourself in an authentic gallery. The walls and ceiling, covered with hand-swept white lime powder, give the impression of a vast canvas. On the walls, there are 25 abstract paintings, all evoking a dreamlike atmosphere. They are the works of Lim Yu-seon, a Western-style painter, and will be on display until early next month.
What distinguishes this place from a real gallery is that there are comfortable-looking sofas arranged throughout the 100-square-meter space. The 10-or-so customers were drinking their tea and coffee while listening to classical music and silently appreciating the paintings. Some walked around the gallery with their cups in hand to approach the pictures for closer scrutiny. In one corner of the shop, two men in their 20s were listening to the owner Son Seung-hyeon, 38, explain the characteristics of each painting medium, such as oil or acrylic.
Mr. Son says, "We change the paintings on display every 15 to 30 days so you can always see new pictures. I always personally view the pictures beforehand to ensure the artistic level of the display."
Ilsan, with its colorful cafes and chic restaurants, still has a neighborhood that is a favorite of the locals, Aenigol Valley in Poong-dong. Soho Gallery (031-904-5050) is situated on the second floor and is known for its charming atmosphere. The fun of sitting by the glass wall with the piano playing and admiring the beautiful pictures is quite something. This place is often used as a setting for television soap operas. About 10 to 20 artworks are displayed throughout the year on the square wall in the center and the several partition walls located here and there in the 265-square-meter shop.
A customer, Lee Kyung-ah, 23, says, "There is nothing better than a sweet cup of coffee drunk while falling into the artistic world of the abstract pictures and the sculptures." The shop usually shows works by young artists, and changes monthly.
This cafe in Deoki-dong's Rodeo street looks like a mixture of a gallery and an atelier. There are 20 abstract paintings by Jung Seung-hyeon, a student at Sungshin University, on the white walls. Two plaster busts are placed on a table. A student busily draws, using one of the busts as her model, while the others leisurely drink their tea and look at the pictures.
Gaebyeok (031-914-4552) has held nine exhibitions of ceramics and Western paintings since last July. There is no admission fee. A multifunctional cultural space, the shop features a restaurant with a permanent collection of 10 or so abstract paintings and even an outdoor stage.
by Juhn Ik-jin