After leaving the realm of Jake and Dinos I headed back up Rodeo passing the cornucopia of design houses and anticipating the odd brush with K-pop royalty. This did not materialise and if it had I wouldn’t have recognised any of them. As far as I have been able to ascertain; if you are a boy who looks and dresses more femme allied to being majorly effete then you can be a K-pop star. If you’re a girl who can hold a tune on a vocoder and is willing to lay at the alter of plastic fantastic surgery to look more western; then you too can be a K-pop star.
Arriving at the Galleria apartment store shadowed by 50ft effigies of the aforementioned, I stopped for a premium sandwich lunch. The sandwich was none too premium consisting of stale rye bread, a ball of tuna mayo and some frozen iceberg lettuce, all for the princely sum of £3.60. Just around the corner was shoe shop street and I knew my destination planet Converse. The store sign said it all “Shoes are Boring, Wear Sneakers”, I don’t do sneakers though I do PUMPS as do all true northerners. The kaleidoscope of styles verged from retro 50’s to Glam 70s, from £30 to….believe this….. £150. Yes £150 for pumps. I chose retro black leather Jack Purcell for £50.
Heading back into town I made it as far as the Sillom Sauna for a well-earned salt scrub before heading back to Lavina for a siesta. The evening saw a stroll around Insadong, a feast of Kkanbu Chicken, a few bevies and some convivial chat in the Jogno bars. The weather has really turned; early evening a bitter wind set in and later we were treated to some pretty heavy rain.
Morning broke with a chill still hanging in the air and blue flashes fighting some darker clouds but no rain. I’d decided to go see Mario Testino at Seoul Arts Centre but had a couple of hours to pass. The artsy coffee shops of Insadong beckoned and I could get line 3 from Anguk direct to Nambu Station, the nearest stop to the Art’s Centre.
As for Mario, well of course I knew of his iconic Diana images and that he had an affinity with Kate Moss but what I hadn’t bargained for was the shear scale and detail in the images. Seoul had followed Beijing and Shanghai in this tour of his most iconic images.
“Private View” showcases a total of 86 prints, including his portraits of the Queenie and her crew, he also has the full gamut of Oscar-winning actors, and pop culture icons. The most visible work is his shot of Gaga, bronzed almost black, contrasting with a bleached blonde bob and a shocking pink hood. Set against an orange backdrop, the image has been used because it captures a different audience demographic than those who would normally visit a photographic exhibition. Continuing the celebrity thread are photos from fashion shoots with Gucci, Kate Moss, and Giselle (one of his favourites). The images date from 1994 to 2011, and were selected by Testino personally. My favourite image is of Kirsten Dunst, which has a glorious 1930’s Hollywood feel to it.
The celebrity shots include work with Brad Pitt, Madonna, Kirsten Dunst, and Emma Watson. The Royal Family portraits range from black-and-white images of the late Princess Diana to official engagement photos of Prince William and Kate.
Oxford Trinity College professor Martin Kemp explores what is iconic in “Christ to Coke: How Image Becomes Icon”. His journey into the heart of modern iconography, veers across art, architecture, advertising, religion, science, and more. From the Mona Lisa to Che Guevara to Einstein’s E=mc² to Milton Glaser’s I♥NY, Kemp uses 11 such iconic images to examine the 11 key categories he identifies. Beneath them all runs a common undercurrent of elements that hold the secret to all icons, among them, simplicity of message, robustness, and openness of interpretation.
This is the finest art exhibit I have seen in my time in Korea, mostly shows are overly hyped this exceeds the hype, the sheer quality and scale of the images is engrossing, it should not be missed. Two differing artistic mediums this weekend, each a masterclass in its genre. Go see them both quickly!