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Collector C.I. Kim to open second contemporary art gallery in Cheonan, South Korea

The Korean collector has chosen the British architect David Adjaye to design the new building

London

Kim Chang-il, the Korean collector and businessman, is to open a second gallery in Cheonan, South Korea, next to the Arario Gallery, which he opened in 2002.

Mr Kim spoke to The Art Newspaper while on a recent trip to London, where he met with the young British architect David Adjaye, whom he has commissioned to design the new museum. Adjaye’s most recent work in London includes the installation of Chris Ofili’s cycle of 13 paintings, The upper room, at Tate Britain.

Mr Kim’s new gallery, which is expected to open in 2010, will be called Another Museum. It will have around 16,500 square metres of gallery space, more than three times that of the original Arario Gallery, which is part of a giant complex containing shopping malls, multiplex cinemas and restaurants—the foundations of Mr Kim’s business empire. “Art is important for all my businesses,” he says. “Art has helped them flourish.”

Art is indeed everywhere in the Cheonan complex. Damien Hirst’s Hymn, a massive anatomical model for which Mr Kim paid $2 million in 2004, stands encased in a glass box next to the gallery, while a nearby sculpture park contains Hirst’s giant Charity, as well as monumental works by Robert Indiana, Isamu Noguchi, Keith Haring and C.I. Kim himself.

According to Mr Kim, when it is completed, Another Museum will house much of his rapidly expanding collection of contemporary art from Asia, Europe and the US and will also host temporary shows. He says that he is now collecting with the museum in mind, and is still adding to his collection of British and German art, which is particularly strong in works by the YBAs and the German painters of the Leipzig School. Mr Kim also says that he has started collecting works by young Eastern European and Latin American artists.

Although Arario acts as a commercial enterprise, with a recently opened gallery in Beijing and a New York space planned for 2008, Mr Kim says these are mainly focused on promoting the work of Asian artists. He says that he is reluctant to sell any of the art which will form the basis of the museum collection, and recounts how he politely rebuffed Charles Saatchi, when the London-based collector enquired about buying YBA works a few years ago.

Despite his ambitions to promote Asian art internationally, it is his legacy to his native Korea that most concerns Mr Kim. His dream for Another Museum is to leave important works of art in Korea. “Art is my life, and I want to give back masterpieces,” he says. He is unlikely to bequeath his collection to the Korean State however. “They wouldn’t know what to do with it,” he says. Indeed Cheonan, the city where he built his business, is the real focus of his attention. He takes greatest pride in the fact that at the Arario Gallery he has exhibited works by local high-school students alongside the Damien Hirsts and Tracey Emins.

Appeared in The Art Newspaper Archive, 167 March 2006