Korea’s principal international gateways, Incheon and Gimpo Airports, have witnessed a fascinating transformation. These terminals, primarily known for bustling crowds and the hum of aircraft engines, have metamorphosed into grand galleries displaying the soul of contemporary Korean art. The inspiration behind this artistic initiative is to parallel two major art fairs slated for September: Frieze Seoul and Kiaf Seoul. The idea? To grant inbound passengers, many of whom are potential fair attendees, an immediate immersion into the country’s vibrant art culture.
Incheon’s Terminal 2 has embraced an exhibition titled “Direct from Antarctica and the Arctic to Incheon Airport.” Running until November 30th, this collection hosts seven artists who’ve experienced the annual polar residency program initiated by Arts Council Korea (ARKO) and the Korea Polar Research Institute in 2011. These artists, who ventured into the untouched territories of Antarctica or voyaged through the Arctic Ocean aboard Korea’s pioneering icebreaker Araon, render their perspectives of these sparse landscapes into captivating media artworks and installations.
For instance, Kim Seung-young’s art piece “Flag” (2015) artistically captures the deserted Antarctic landscape. Here, the evocative combination of salt, LED lights, and a miniature flag portray the ethereal ambience of the Antarctic during a ‘white night’. Another compelling piece is Kim Se-jin’s “2048”, which delves into the geopolitical intricacies of Antarctica, specifically referencing the expiration year of the Antarctic Treaty, signed in 1959.
While these pieces echo the haunting beauty and the geopolitical significance of the polar regions, some artworks resonate with the pressing issues of climate change. Cho Kwang-hee’s artwork, titled “A Beautiful Disappearance,” showcases the alarming rapidity of iceberg melting, captured as a video loop, complete with the uncanny sound of ice popping.
Incheon also houses another exhibit named “In Sync”, celebrating till October 22nd. This exhibition showcases the ingenuity of 11 upcoming media artists like Daphne Jiyeon Jang and Cho Young-kak, who masterfully intertwine their artworks with artificial intelligence, kinematics, and gaming technologies.
Gimpo International Airport, on the other hand, offers “Be Free”, a collection that decorates the third-floor departure halls with installations by five seasoned artists. A notable piece here is Nam June Paik’s “I Never Read Wittgenstein” (1998). It uniquely employs four CRT monitors against a patterned backdrop, challenging and communicating the philosophy of 20th-century thinker Ludwig Wittgenstein.
These curated exhibitions not only serve as a precursor to the major art fairs in Seoul but also redefine the travel experience. They allow visitors to connect with the Korean art scene instantly, making layovers and waiting times a rich, cultural journey. The exhibitions, combined with the forthcoming art fairs at the Coex Convention & Exhibition Center, promise to make September a month of artistry and deep reflection in Korea.