[VIEWPOINT]Museum symbolizes Seoul’s rebirthLondon is remembered by tourists from just ten years ago as a place where there were no cafes where visitors could have a cup of coffee in a comfortable atmosphere . However, London today is a city that has changed into a place of high cultural entertainment, with well-developed art, architecture, food, design, etc. The capital of the once-great empire, which used to look dark and depressed, is restoring its suppressed potential energy and changing its features spectacularly and at an amazing speed.
The visible changes that Britain’s economic recovery after the 1990s created may appear in many different fields, but the most distinguished of them is culture. The development of modern art and architecture are especially blinding. Young modern art in England has developed into a mainstream culture that has lead world art market trends since the mid-1990s and, as a ripple effect of this, a boom in interest in modern art has been created in Britain. Actually, despite the fact that Britain is the country where modern pop-art was born, British art was very different from contemporary art. However, the major success of British modern art overseas has played a locomotive role by bringing about a revival of modern art within the country also.
Five years ago, when the whole world was excited about the new millennium, it was Britain that presented the clearest cultural millennium project. The great architectural design that revived the dead area around the River Thames changed the London scene, and the renovation of the Tate Modern Art Museum was at the center of that project. There was an ambition to become the new leader of the art world behind the British plan to convert a huge and desolate power plant into a modern art museum. That ambition was realized and the museum has made the country the new Mecca of modern art, both in name and reality.
London is now no longer the capital of a dark and dreary fallen empire but the most attractive city in Europe, which shines and is much loved by tourists. London is changing even the image of the country to that of a place where people can appreciate cutting-edge architecture, new artworks and design and a place where hip bars and restaurants open.
In the case of Seoul, also, the news of the opening of the National Museum a few days ago provokes an analogy of the synergistic effects of cultural and city development. The news that close to 100,000 people visited the museum, which is among the world’s top ten in size, within three days of the opening, reminds us of what happened at London’s Tate Modern five years ago.
Aside from its function of displaying antiquities, the National Museum is equipped with a large park, a concert hall and service facilities. It is expected that the museum will become an important factor to symbolize the new image of Seoul. The change from its former one-way authoritarian and conservative function into a new space that people can get involved in and enjoy is going to make the museum a great source of energy for Seoul citizens.
In addition, the fact that the National Museum of Contemporary Art, which is currently located in Gwacheon City, will move into the middle of Seoul next to Gyeongbok Palace in a few years, is expected to further escalate Seoul’s development into a high value-added cultural city.
More than 6 million people have visited the newly opened Cheonggye stream that runs through the heart of Seoul in just one month. It is evidence that the people long for a place where they can get away from their daily chores and feel rich in mind and body. In this desire, we can see we all have the potential and energy to become cultural citizens.
It also seems that the rebirth of Seoul as a true cultural space, which can open up people’s energy and potential, is now not just a hopeful dream for the far future.
* The writer is the president of PKM Gallery. Translation by the JoongAng Daily staff.
by Park Kyung-mee