Graffiti kings move their masterpieces from outside to art gallery walls

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Graffiti kings move their masterpieces from outside to art gallery walls

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From left: Various graffiti artworks, including those of Shepard Fairey, Zevs, Crash, and Nick Walker have arrived in Seoul for the exhibit “The Great Graffiti.” Along with the four, JonOne, L’atlas and JR are also participating in the show. [SHEPARD FAIREY, ZEVS, JOHN CRASH MATOS, NICK WALKER]

Spray-painting on trains and buildings in vibrant letters has been considered vandalism for decades, but as graffiti is slowly gaining respect in Korea, it’s moving from exterior spaces to art galleries.

“The word ‘graffiti’ is often correlated with the type of thing you find at the back of the toilet wall,” said graffiti artist Nick Walker during a press conference for “The Great Graffiti,” an exhibition of graffiti artwork. “It’s now moved to museums, being more accepted by the public. It’s climbed a long way.”

At Seoul Calligraphy Art Museum of the Seoul Arts Center, visitors may see the works of seven different European and American graffiti artists - Crash, Nick Walker, Shepard Fairey, JonOne, Zevs, L’atlas and JR.

All seven artists boast entirely different styles, with JonOne applying colorful acrylic paints to canvas and L’atlas using black-and-white typography to express themselves. Nick Walker uses stencils to form images before going back in to add delicate touches.

“People usually define us as graffiti writers, street artists, vandals or wall painters,” said JonOne. “What’s interesting about this show is that people get the opportunity to see us as individuals, not just as street artists.”

“Some of what’s currently considered ‘art’ was disdained when it first appeared,” added Choi Hwan-seung, president of the Minoa Art Assets, an organizer of the exhibit. “Graffiti is also in the process of settling in as a new genre of art.”

The fact that the exhibit is taking place at a calligraphy museum also has special meaning, according to the organizers.

“It’s now time to take what’s kept inside museums outdoors, and bring what’s usually seen outside indoors,” said John Hae-oung, general director of arts management at the Seoul Arts Center. “As we bring graffiti into museums, we will also try to change Korean calligraphy into something that can be seen outside exhibit halls.”

The exhibit “The Great Graffiti” lasts until Feb. 26 at Seoul Calligraphy Art Museum, Seoul Arts Center in Seocho District, southern Seoul.

BY SHON JI-HYE [shon.jihye@joongang.co.kr]


The exhibit opens from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tickets are sold until 6 p.m. It closes on Mondays and on Jan. 28. Tickets for adults are 10,000 won ($8.53). For more information, call (02) 580-1300 or go to www.sac.or.kr
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