Korean pop culture on display at National Art Gallery exhibit in KL


‘Sandiwara Anak Korea’ creates fantastical motifs that blend popular TV shows and movies from South Korea and Malaysia. Can you spot all the references? Photo: The Star/Hanis Maketab

Obsessed with all things Korean? Then you’ll want to check out the National Art Gallery’s Hallyu-Korean Wave Exhibition, featuring artwork from local and international artists inspired by the global impact of Korean culture.

Malaysians are no strangers to the influx of Korean culture (known as “Hallyu”, or “Korean Wave”), which has had us in its grip for the past two decades, from its chart-topping music and addictive TV shows to its internationally-acclaimed movies and irresistible food.

The exhibition – on the third floor of the National Art Gallery (NAG) – highlights pieces from the Batu Belah Art Community, a local art community that was recognised at last year’s Young Contemporary Awards (Anugerah Bakat Muda Sezaman) at NAG, as well as notable Korean contemporary artists Jin Youngsun, DaViz (Eunseok O, Kyudong Park), and Bu Kyunghee.

The 'Import Wave' installation presents Emart24, one of many Korean chains that have found their way to Malaysia, thanks to our insatiable appetite for Korean food. Photo: The Star/Hanis MaketabThe 'Import Wave' installation presents Emart24, one of many Korean chains that have found their way to Malaysia, thanks to our insatiable appetite for Korean food. Photo: The Star/Hanis Maketab

For visitors, a nice touch at the start of the exhibition is a historic portrait work from the NAG collection from the legendary Datuk Mohd Hoessein Enas (1924-1995) titled Gadis Korea, an elegant oil paint on canvas work from 1960.

The rest of the exhibition then takes off into contemporary directions, with a series of collaborative artworks placed across the gallery – Cyberspace, Import Wave and Into My Universe – from local artists.

A portrait work from the National Art Gallery collection from the legendary Datuk Mohd Hoessein Enas (1924-1995) titled 'Gadis Korea', an elegant oil paint on canvas work from 1960. Photo: The Star/Hanis MaketabA portrait work from the National Art Gallery collection from the legendary Datuk Mohd Hoessein Enas (1924-1995) titled 'Gadis Korea', an elegant oil paint on canvas work from 1960. Photo: The Star/Hanis Maketab

Spend the afternoon enjoying interactive digital works and eye-catching art installations, such as Mastermind: Flipped In Your Area, a colourful piece made from lights and folded pieces of paper used to play ddakji, a children’s game that Gong Yoo’s character in Squid Game uses to recruit potential players.

If you’re a fan of K-pop group BTS, try to see if you can spot your bias in Jin Youngsun’s Times Reimagined_Dionysus, a fresco which depicts the members as Greek gods. Jin also has another fresco, Voice Of Time, which incorporates the sound and energy of BTS songs.

Sneak a peek into a K-pop fan’s bedroom in ‘Into My Universe’, which is essentially a shrine to their favourite artistes. Photo: The Star/Hanis MaketabSneak a peek into a K-pop fan’s bedroom in ‘Into My Universe’, which is essentially a shrine to their favourite artistes. Photo: The Star/Hanis Maketab

You may be tempted to grab a snack from the Emart24 chiller on display, but resist! It’s an installation to call attention to the proliferation of Korean mart chains and the popularity of Korean food in Malaysia.

Lovebirds can commemorate their visit to the exhibition by purchasing a padlock from the "Lock on Lock" installation, writing their initials on it and adding it to the piece.

The installation is a tribute to the popular practice of leaving a padlock as a symbol of a couple’s everlasting love, such as those seen at Seoul’s Namsan Tower.

This heart-shaped installation invites couples to add their own padlocks to symbolise their love. Photo: The Star/Hanis MaketabThis heart-shaped installation invites couples to add their own padlocks to symbolise their love. Photo: The Star/Hanis Maketab

There is also the thought-provoking interactive installation, Beauty Perception, which applies commonly-used beauty filters to enhance the skin, eyes and facial features of visitors’ selfies, which are then projected onto the wall – much like posting to your Instagram feed.

The exhibition’s centrepiece, Into My Universe, gives you a glimpse into the typical bedroom of a K-pop fan, covered from top to bottom in magazine cutouts of K-pop stars and fan art, with albums and merchandise proudly put on display.

‘Beauty Perception’ is an interactive installation which uses beauty filters to touch-up selfies. Photo: The Star/Hanis Maketab‘Beauty Perception’ is an interactive installation which uses beauty filters to touch-up selfies. Photo: The Star/Hanis Maketab

The exhibition is free entry and will be open to the public until Sept 16, so be sure to set a date with your fellow Hallyu fans before then!

For those who plan to take public transportation, the nearest MRT station is Hospital Kuala Lumpur (Putrajaya line), which is a short walk from the National Art Gallery.

More info here.

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