‘Art x Stay’ turns guesthouses to galleries

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‘Art x Stay’ turns guesthouses to galleries

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Momo House in Hongdae, a guesthouse available on Airbnb, exhibits Korean artist Lee Gil-rae’s pine-tree inspired sculptural works to let guests experience Korean art firsthand, all while giving local artists exposure to a global audience. [ARTTRIP]

When art lovers travel, they usually try to squeeze at least one or two visits to a museum or gallery.

But if they don’t have to leave their hotel to experience local art? Even better.

That opportunity is available at several otherwise ordinary-looking guesthouses in the Hongdae area of Mapo District, western Seoul.

It’s all thanks to the hosts of four guest houses listed on Airbnb, who recently formed the art curating group Arttrip and launched the “Art x Stay” project.
Most of the hosts are both interested in art and have a day job in a travel-related field, so they began to brainstorm how they could “offer foreigners traveling to Seoul more creative travelling opportunities,” said Lee Min-jung, head of Arttrip and a host of Min’s House.

“We are all recognized as ‘super hosts’ by Airbnb and that naturally led us to discuss together how to provide foreign travelers with a unique experience in an unfamiliar city, all while giving local artists the opportunity to be naturally exposed to foreign audiences and potential collectors,” she said.

“Then we came up with this idea of allowing visitors to sleep, eat and drink with Korean art.”

To begin Art x Stay, the group invited Kim Byoung-soo, an art critic, to select artists for collaboration, as well as craft explanations of the art for foreign audiences.

“We have a special rule for the Art x Stay project, and that’s for the hosts to have enough of an understanding of the artists and artworks displayed in their house to explain them to guests who show interest,” Lee said.

Four guesthouses collaborated with four artists working in various mediums.

The first to open to the public was the Momo House, which currently displays the work of Korean artist Lee Gil-rae.
Lee, known for his tree-inspired sculptures, has transformed the guesthouse into an art gallery, modifying his works to fit the space. Lee particularly focused on decorating the living room, which is used as a common area for both the guests and host. It displays three big pieces by Lee, two of which he created after visiting the guesthouse for the first time.
“This pine tree-shaped lamp shade is my existing product so I installed it on the ceiling,” said the artist.

“As for the installation on the window, I have always wanted to create something like this - a work of art and that can also hide a messy storage area outside.”

A large pine tree sculpture on a green plaster board also takes up one wall of the living room, creating a restful and nature-friendly atmosphere. Detailed pen sketches of pine trees by Lee have also been framed and hung up on the walls of both the guest and the host rooms.

A one-night stay in a king-size bedroom with a shared kitchen, a living room and bathroom costs around 150,000 won per night.

“The artworks will be displayed for about three months and eventually will be taken down to be sold at Arttrip’s online shop,” said Kim.

If a guest decides to purchase the artworks, the “exhibition” will be shortened, according to Kim.

The other three participating guesthouses will be available for bookings on Airbnb starting the first of every month from August.

Beginning Aug. 1, the Urbanwood Guesthouse will feature the work of installation artist Song Song. The following month will see Woo&Woo House show sculptor Kim Min-ki’s work, closing with the work of young potter Han Jung-eun at Min’s House on Oct. 1.

“When I was first asked to direct this project, I was quite hesitant,” said Kim. “But the more I thought about it, I believed both art and travelling require people to be adventurous.

“Without that little spirt of adventure, neither art nor travel will be as exciting. So I decided to have an adventure and try this innovative and very trendy project that helps travelers have direct experiences of Korean art.”

BY YIM SEUNG-HYE [sharon@joongang.co.kr]
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