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Distinguished Installation Artist Introduced to U.S. Audiences

‘ Art in the 21st Century’ PBS Series Features Korean Artist Kim Soo-ja
Kim Min-jeong
Media Department
PBS, the leading public broadcast network in the United States, featured the artistic world of Kim Soo-ja, a Korean installation artist, as part of its “Art 21: Art in the 21st Century” series, on October 28, 2009, with sponsorship assistance from the Korea Foundation.

“Art 21: Art in the 21st Century” is a highly regarded series on the contemporary arts scene aired by PBS. As a biennale presentation, it is among the most influential programs on the world’s contemporary art sector. This year, Season 5 of “Art 21: Art in the 21st Century” was broadcast in the U.S. on four consecutive Wednesday evenings during the month of October. Of particular note, the series focused on the introduction of 14 of the world’s most prominent contemporary artists, such as William Kentridge, Jeff Koons, and Cindy Sherman. And, as part of its final “Systems” episode, it featured the Korean installation artist Kim Soo-ja, who is known for her highly acclaimed “Bottari” and “Needle Woman” works.

‘Bottari’ Artist
Following the broadcast, Kim Sooja was delighted to mention: “I have received sincere messages from many viewers in the United States after I was introduced on the PBS series last week. I am touched and grateful. I again can see the potential of the broadcast media. Since I have been more active abroad so far, I did not have much opportunity to introduce my works in Korea. However, I intend to hold a solo exhibition at the Atelier Hermes in Seoul, early next year, and maintain closer contact with the Korean people in the future.”
Currently based in the United States, Kim Soo-ja is said to delve into the artistic realm of the linear and solid, space and time, and life and art, through her works of objet d’art, installation, performance, and video. She typically uses everyday materials, like wrapping cloths, bundles, bedclothes, and needles, to create her art works. Since the 1990s in particular, she has focused on works of bottari (Korean-style wrapping cloth), for which Kim Sooja has come to be known as a “bottari” artist on the international stage. Over time, she has gradually expanded her areas of work, along with establishing herself as a representative Korean artist and attracting global recognition.
The “Art 21: Art in the 21st Century” episode included an interview of Kim Soo-ja and introduction of her various works, such as “Needle Woman,” a unique video that shows only the back of the artist as she seems to stand motionless while observing passers-by, in the middle of busy downtown areas of Shanghai, Tokyo, Delhi, New York, and other major cities around the world, and “Lotus: Zone of Zero,” an installation work that is comprised of 2,000 lotus lanterns, which are accompanied by Tibetan, Islamic, and Gregorian chanting. The costs for producing PBS documentary programs are often underwritten by the contributions of donors, rather than relying on ad revenue. The Foundation thus extended sponsorship assistance for production of the subject “Art in the 21st Century” episode from its multimedia support program, in an effort to broaden exposure of Korea’s contemporary artists.
After the broadcast, PBS will release the “Art in the 21st Century” series in the form of a DVD as well as a book that features the artist interviews and descriptions of their major works. Prior to the TV airing, special screening events were arranged at some 440 art galleries, museums, and schools in 25 countries around the globe. In the case of Korea, the series was shown at the Korea Foundation Cultural Center (October 17 and 24), which attracted the attendance of almost 100 viewers, including art students, artists, designers, and curators. An audience member noted: “It was a good and rare opportunity to learn about contemporary artists, who have gained prominence on the world stage, and to see their recent works.”

Contemporary Korean Artists
In addition, Kim Soo-ja was invited to participate in the third Moscow Biennale of Contemporary Art (September 25 to October 25, 2009). The Moscow Bi ennale is one of the largest contemporary art events held in Russia, which included about 40 exhibitions of contemporary art presented at various venues across the city. The Foundation provided support for Kim Soo-ja’s participation in this event, where she showed her “Bottari Truck” work.
In Season 2 of “Art in the 21st Century,” in 2003, the series introduced another contemporary Korean artist, Suh Do Ho, who has earned critical acclaim while working abroad, similar to the case of Kim Soo-ja. These two artists, as well as other artists from Korea, such as Bahc Yi-so, Koo Jeong-A, Yang Hae-gue, Kim Beom, Gim Hong-sok, Park Ju-yeon, Lim Min-ouk, Chang Young-hae Heavy Industries, Jeon Joon-ho, and Choi Jeong-hwa, participated in a special “Your Bright Future: 12 Contemporary Artists from Korea” exhibition held at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (June 28-September 20, 2009), one of the largest museums in the U.S. Western region. With support from the Foundation, this exhibition will also be presented at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (November 22, 2009 through February 14, 2010) . Of note, this exhibition is being shown at the Korean gallery of these two museums, which had been established with assistance from the Foundation’s museum support program.
Of particular note, as described in the foregoing, the Foundation’s efforts to introduce Korean culture and arts to audiences worldwide covers a broad spectrum of activities, including sponsor s hip assistance f o r t h e production of multimedia content, like the PBS series, in addition to support for the establishment of Korean gallery areas in museums abroad for the presentation of regular and special exhibitions. Through this integrated approach, the Foundation strives to maximize synergy benefits, in terms of creating a more lasting impact, rather than simply holding one-time events.

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