Anyang’s last resort: forging an ‘Art Valley’

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Anyang’s last resort: forging an ‘Art Valley’

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The Korean government loves to designate any place related to urban development as a “special zone.” It’s a kind of fad that’s effective most of the time.
Anyang’s new public art project is a case in point.
It seemed like a good idea to renovate an old resort into an open-air exhibition space, but things are not exactly going as planned. Nevertheless, the city launched its noble effort, the Anyang Public Arts Project, on Nov. 5, under the title “Tipping the Balance.” The ceremony took place at Anyang Resort, which has been renamed “Anyang Resort Art Valley,” and features 52 permanent and 45 temporary works by 87 artists, architects and designers from 28 nations. (The temporary works will be removed on Dec. 15.)
The aim of the project is to renovate the public resort, located on the outskirts of the city. Once a popular place for residents to commune with nature, the resort was overtaken by urban expansion in the 1980s, and the number of visitors dwindled. The resort has since deteriorated into a chaotic and odd mixture of Buddhist temples, street vendors, motels and fortunetellers.
The city had first planned to create a sculpture park that would have occupied about 2,600 square meters (a little over half an acre) of the resort. That idea was scrapped in favor of turning the whole resort ― a third of a square kilometer ― into an “art valley. “
“This is a significant change, in that Anyang worked on an urban development plan that harmonized civil engineering, landscape architecture, regular architecture, design and visual arts,” said Lee Young-chul, the artistic director of the Anyang Public Art Project. Mr. Lee was the first to push for the project idea back in 2003.
He said that most of the urban development in Korea has been done based on existing landscape architecture.
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Whether the renovation will be a success, however, is still up in the air.
Starting the project in the winter doesn’t seem like the best idea. Currently, the majority of the art is placed on a mountainside amid barren trees.
Mr. Lee agreed that the timing was bad, but said that the city had no choice.
“There will be a mayoral election next June,” he said. “If there’s a new mayor, no one knows what will happen to the project.” He explained that the current mayor, Shin Joong-dai, had actively supported the project.
Mr. Shin traveled across Japan in April 2004 to survey examples of successful public arts projects, Mr. Lee said.
Another hurdle will be the overall development of the resort: given that the city has spent 6 billion won ($5.8 million) so far, the area still looks strikingly undeveloped. Many of the art works are brilliant, but certainly not all of them. The problem is one of space ― too much of it. The close to 100 works of art are spread over the entire area and trying to see them all quickly devolves into a kind of treasure hunt.
There is also a half-finished feel. Three of the works are still under construction. Materials are scattered about and workmen are banging away on wooden stairs. Meanwhile, not-so-tidy street vendors have set up shop at the entrance, lending a somewhat low-class feel. With less than a month to go before the removal of the temporary works, Anyang city has a long way to go to transform its “Art Valley” into something worthy of its citizens’ tax money.


by Park Sung-ha

To get to Anyang Resort, take subway line No. 1 to Anyang or Gwanak station. For more information call (031) 389-5122, or visit apap.anyang.go.kr.
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