Renowned collector plans to open private museumA large private museum is to open in Cheonan city, Gyeonggi province, in 2010. The Arario Museum will be built on land covering 19,800 square meters (4.9 acres) and have five stories above ground, said Kim Chang-il, 55, the chairman of the Arario galleries in Seoul and Cheonan.
Mr. Kim started running a bus terminal in Cheonan in 1978, then expanded his empire to include a department store and movie theaters. He is a renowned collector and has purchased works by well-known international artists including Damien Hirst, Joseph Beuys and Keith Haring. He was one of 200 international collectors featured by ART News, an international monthly art magazine, in July.
“Imagine that when the museum doors open in the morning, there is a long line of people waiting to see the good works inside. I will make that kind of museum,” Mr. Kim said.
Arario Museum will be built next to the Arario Gallery in Cheonan. Once completed, it will absorb the gallery. The museum’s design by David Adjaye, one of Britain’s leading contemporary architects, appears unconventional. Small showrooms will be scattered around a large space. One showroom will have a very high ceiling, close to the roof, and another will be 50 meters (164 feet) long.
Mr. Kim said the reason for the museum’s unusual structure is that the days when museums showed only only paintings have passed. “Now we need to take into consideration the works to be shown,” he said. “What would an artist feel when he sees an exhibition space with such a high ceiling? He will be full of creative ideas. No matter how large works are, we will be able to display them.”
The chairman has been collecting artworks from overseas for 20 years, in addition to pieces by domestic artists. His personal collection includes pieces by many well-known international artists, as well as Asian contemporary art from China and India. Works by Korean artists make up 70 percent of his collection.
Mr. Kim said that locating the museum in Cheonan, rather than Seoul, would not be an important factor in its success.
“This is an Internet age,” he said. “When the Arario Gallery in Cheonan is having an exhibition, there are many visitors from Seoul. If a museum has decent work, more people will visit it. I started my business in Cheonan and came this far. I am grateful to the people of Cheonan.” A sculpture park near the gallery in Cheonan has billions of won (millions of dollars) worth of pieces donated by Mr. Kim, including Hirst’s “Hymn” and “Charity.”
As of last year, Mr. Kim’s company has been signing exclusive contracts with artists. Arario Galleries supports the artists by providing work-related expenses and promoting them overseas, and the artists sell their work exclusively through the galleries. More than 30 artists are under contract to the galleries, including young Korean artists Lee Dong-wook and Gwon O-sang, and Chinese artists Yue Minjun and Wang Guangyi. Recently, the company built an apartment and studio complex in Seongsan-eup, Hado-ri, Jeju Island for the artists to live and work in.
Mr. Kim buys approximately 20 billion worth of art annually from around the world.
Within the next two years, he plans to open galleries in Tokyo, New York and Mumbai to promote Asian art.
by Park Jee-young