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Seeking a Creative Spark
Written by Hankyum Kim | Published. 2021.04.01 14:55 | Count : 106

At the start of the 2nd semester, ideas for starting new school clubs that will be created for the next fall are submitted. Since my future major is going to be business related, I wanted to submit an idea for a business club that would create a startup business, obtain crowdfunding, and make mock stock trades by analyzing public companies. As I was researching the business models of startups that eventually became successful, I became intrigued about the interaction between the business and art worlds. I came across Silicon Valley’s fondness for hiring street artists to adorn their HQ’s with original artwork that would spark creatively in the workplace. A prime example would be Korean American street artist David Choe who was hired by Facebook in its infancy to mural its office walls and was famously paid in Facebook stock that eventually turned into over $200 million after its IPO in 2012.

Thus, I wanted to deploy a similar creative environment for my future club and started to visit art exhibitions in the Hongdae district of Seoul that featured local street artists. This is how I became aware of artist Jean-Michel Basquiat who captivated the 1980’s NYC art scene with his neo-expressionist paintings. His art pieces have grown in recognition and value after his tragic death at the young age 27 in 1988.   

[Entrance ticket to the exhibit on January 17, 2021. Photo courtesy by Lotte Museum]

Amidst the pandemic, I was lucky enough to attend a Basquiat art exhibition held at the Lotte Museum of Art in Seoul. The exhibition was titled “Royalty, Heroism and the Streets” with over 150 drawings, paintings, and sculptures. Known for his rebellious artistic style, Basquiat’s works blend topics such as violence and fear, life and death, and lightness and darkness. The exhibition had a casual mood in contrast to other exhibitions that are held in very quiet settings, so I was able to freely discuss the paintings with my companion. Also, there was music playing in the background which is unusual for exhibitions.

The piece that first caught my attention was called “Untitled (Venus 2000 BC). Drawn on a background of mustard yellow, this acrylic and oil stick painting is renowned for its simplicity and almost childlike drawing. The Venus figure dominates the canvas but she is not drawn in her traditional manner, but rather as a portrayal of a ruined statue that is harmless, headless, and devoid of all characteristics of worship. The painting features his signature recurring motif – the three pointed crown – at the top right and the word “ELBOW” in the lower-left dangling from an arm/elbow depiction so simplified that it resembles a clothes hanger rather than any recognizable body part. This represented Basquiat’s lifelong interest in anatomy and the human body.

[Photo of the author standing in front of “Untitled (Venus 2000 BC)”. 
Photo courtesy by Lotte Museum]

I was also fascinated by the painting “New York, New York” as Basquiat didn’t use many colors, but by combining just a few, he was able to create a vivid image that represents the gritty landscape of the lower east side of NYC in the 1980s, where graffiti was prominent on the walls of buildings. His iconic three pointed crown can also be seen at the top right of the painting. His depiction of 1980’s NYC had me Google imaging that era on my phone and the photos from that era were eerily similar to the painting. In 2018, it was sold for $10.7 million at Sotheby’s in London. 

["New York, New York” at the Lotte Museum of Art. Photo courtesy by Lotte Museum]

While I was very impressed with the exhibition in terms of style and expression, I wasn't really sure if my idea of street art posters for our meeting room would inspire the same creativity for the other members of the club or if they would even want art to adorn the walls. Art is really a personal preference as my taste might not be the same as the next person. However, when the business club does get up and running, I hope to have a consensus among members of how we would decorate our meeting space to fit the taste of everyone involved and hopefully my idea of Basquiat posters will be well received.







Hankyum Kim
11th Grade
Seoul Scholars International

Hankyum Kim  student_reporter@dherald.com

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