Installation view of CI Kim's "Untitled" (2013) at Arario Gallery Cheonan / Courtesy of Arario Gallery
By Kwon Mee-yoo
Can a millionaire entrepreneur also be an artist? Arario Group Chairman Kim Chang-il has been seeking to find an answer to this for over a decade.
Kim, 64, runs the Cheonan Bus Terminal and Shinsegae Chungcheong department store in Cheonan with annual sales of around 350 billion won ($297 million) and owns Arario Gallery in Seoul, Cheon, and Shanghai and Arario Museum, which has five buildings in Seoul and on Jeju Island. He is one of the top art collectors in Korea with over 3,700 pieces in his collection and has been included in Artnet's top 200 art collectors list for eight consecutive years.
Kim, also a practicing artist under the name of CI Kim, debuted in 2003. His eighth solo exhibition "The Road Is Long" is currently on view at Arario Gallery Cheonan.
"If an artist runs a business, he is an artist. However, when a businessman creates art, he is still a businessman," Kim told the reporters at the press preview of the exhibit.
CI Kim's "Untitled"
It has been some 12 years since he presented his own artwork. He opened Arario Museum last year, presenting highlights of his collection to the public. Kim said the misunderstandings regarding him have been removed since he opened the Arario Museum last year, but he still seems to feel that there is much unfairness directed toward him.
His newest works came from his interest in the properties of matter. In recent years, Kim spent much time at the construction site while transforming the Space Group building designed by the late Kim Swoo-geun into an art museum, and renovating an abandoned movie theater and a motel in Jeju into museums.
The "Untitled" series consists of plywood boards and iron plates which were left outdoors for a year. The layers of wooden boards, iron plates and cement blocks created natural patterns as they went rusty. It is the natural environment that changed the materials, not the artist's hand as he just observed the transition.
"I suffered from autism as a child and was uncomfortable with group activity. Instead, I am good at being absorbed in something and observing it closely. As an adult, I indulge in art and business," Kim said. "I also suffered from schizophrenia and objects looked like human figures. That is why I collect abandoned objects and turn them into artwork."
On the second floor, a variety of objects such as decayed polystyrene, piled buckets with knit hats and paper shopping bags. In fact, these sculptures are made of bronze and painted, as Kim questions what is real and what is not.
The title of the exhibit "The Road Is Long" came from the Beatles' song "The Long and Winding Road." It is a metaphor for his patience as an entrepreneur, art collector, gallerist and artist, all based on his passion and love for art.
The exhibit runs through Nov. 1. Admission is free. For more information, visit www.arariogallery.com or call (041) 551-5100.