[FOUNTAIN]Let us value great pieces of sculpture

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[FOUNTAIN]Let us value great pieces of sculpture

The colossal structure weighs 50 tons and is 22 meters tall, about the size of an eight-story building. As you walk from the Gwanghwamun intersection towards Sinmunro, you come across the dark, impressive sculpture. It looks like Gulliver in Lilliput. A hammer in the right hand slowly moves, arching toward the polluted sky over Seoul every 77 seconds. The structure is Jonathan Brofsky’s “Hammering Man.” Since it was erected in downtown Seoul in June 2002, the “Hammering Man” has been demonstrating the virtue of labor without a break.
However, the sculpture has been getting cold treatment in Korea. While other cities gave precious space for colossal sculptures, the giant “Hammering Man” stands at a corner of a narrow street. According to the foundation, the sculpture had to be built close to the building because the district office, which lacked cultural understanding of the piece, did not allow it to stand in the middle of the street. We might have completely ruined the international masterpiece because of artistic ignorance.
“Amabel,” a metal structure standing in the POSCO plaza in Gangnam has met a similar fate. Art lovers initially welcomed the arrival of a work of acclaimed surrealist master Frank Stella. The works of Frank Stella are some of the highest priced art pieces in the world. Complementing the transparent glass walls revealing the steel frames, “Amabel” is a wonderful piece. However, people said it was too ugly. Critics suggested the structure be removed while supporters insisted it should stay. As a compromise, trees were planted around “Amabel.”
Seoul Metropolitan Government has announced that Claes Oldenburg’s work would be erected at the Cheonggyecheon Plaza.
The city has chosen the Swedish pop artist to commemorate the historic project. While some Korean artists might feel neglected for not being considered, the city’s decision to select an internationally well-known artist is understandable now that Seoul wants to be a globalized city.
However, we should not repeat the mistake of commissioning valuable artwork and ruining it as we have done with “Hammering Man” and “Amabel.”
Putting up a piece of art for the public is different from laying turf or making an ice rink on the Seoul City Hall Plaza.

by Chung Jae-suk

The writer is a deputy culture news editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.
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