French executive gives boost to Korean artists

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French executive gives boost to Korean artists

Newly appointed business executives like to create ripples in their new environment. For Geoffroy de Lassus, who took over Credit Lyonnais Korea in September 2001, such action came swiftly. Only six months into his position ― his first assignment in Asia ― he dived into a project that resembled a hobby more than work.
While working at Credit Lyonnais branches in Canada and Brazil, Mr. de Lassus saw other executives making yearly art books on the countries’ historically famous artists. In Korea, he thought, it would be interesting to discover and promote promising new artists. Here was a way, he thought, for this French company to better integrate Korean culture into the bank’s global network, and improve Credit Lyonnais’s image among Koreans along the way.
For Mr. de Lassus, a native of France who paints landscapes in his spare time, the Credit Lyonnais Artbook Project 2003 was anything but a chore.
With help from a few Korean friends, Mr. de Lassus organized a committee of five Korean and French professionals. Their mission was to select local artists who needed financial support to print books of their works or hold exhibits.
The first artist, chosen among six contenders, was Oum Jeong-soon, 41. A native of Cheongju, Ms. Oum studied fine arts at Ewha Womans University and continued at the Academie Bildenden Kunst in Munich, Germany.
Since her first German show in 1987, Ms. Oum has exhibited her work at prestigious Korean galleries including Kumsan Gallery and Gallery Seomi. A few of her works are owned by the National Museum of Contemporary Art, the Samsung Museum of Modern Art and Ewha Womans University Museum.
Credit Lyonnais’s artistic endeavor has resulted in a hard-cover coffee table book containing 36 of the artist’s works from 1988 to 2001. All told, 600 copies of the 62-page book have been distributed to bank customers as well as school libraries. The book, published last week, presents a cross-section of Ms. Oum’s artistic media, including pastels, watercolors, oils and charcoal. Her delicate yet forceful drawings, which employ eccentric images and colors, are “free and lyrical,” according to Oh Kwang-su, director of Korea’s National Museum of Contemporary Art. The artist’s landscape photographs, depicting fleeting moments of the city, countryside and nature, are favorites of Francine Meoule, cultural director at the French Embassy in Korea.
Mr. de Lassus finds Ms. Oum’s work “surprisingly diverse, as most painters have only one or two distinctive styles.” The executive plans to continue the project every year, in the hope of eventually producing a collection of art books. He encourages other companies to actively promote Korean culture and talent. “Such sponsorship is important in all societies,”.he says. “It’s an act of returning what we earned from society.”


by Ines Cho
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