Inspired by Dr Zeuss and the long weeks of confinement, I have been taking imaginary trips to all the places I hope to see soon. From small museums to wide-open spaces, from restaurants and wineries to eclectically curated shops and perfectly balanced buildings, this biweekly series is a journey around the world in search of the cultural must-sees, the one-of-a-kind destinations for the ultimate art lover, food finder, and off-the-beaten-path traveller.
This week’s trip takes me all the way to South Korea to the enchanting Arario Museum in Space. Located in the Hanok neighbourhood in Seoul, Korea, Arario is the brainchild of Korean entrepreneur, collector and artist Ci Kim, and is part of a series of four museums and galleries in Seoul and Jeju promoting contemporary art.
But this is the one that has captured my attention. Why? Well, for one thing the stunning architecture. The museum sits in the former Space Building designed by the late Korean architect Kim Swoo-geun. Built in 1971 with a subsequent extension in 1977, the Space building is a masterpiece of contemporary Korean architecture. Made of traditional black brick and covered in ivy, there is a wonderful symbiosis of natural and the man-made. The whole building opens up inside into large and de-cluttered areas that play with human scale, light and height.
The building became what it is today in 2014, with an ethos focused on the representation of the soul of the artists on display. Works of art from the collection (over 4,000 works purchased by Mr Kim after a trip to Los Angeles in the 1980s) are shown either in single artist rooms or as part of rotating exhibitions.
The art itself encompasses a mix of east and west and gives plenty of room to both younger and established artists alike. Since its opening, heavy hitters like Osang Gwon, Nam June Paik, Barbara Kruger, Hyung Koo Kang, Neo Rauch, Damien Hirst, Cindy Sherman, Jang Woonsang, Yoon Hyangro, Tracey Emin, Sarah Lucas, Tatsuo Miyajima, and Li Qing, have been just some of the dozens of artists whose work the museum has displayed.
None of my imaginary trips, not-a-single-one, would overlook food. Arario has a Michelin star restaurant with breath-taking views from the top floor, serving modern European food, but also a traditional Korean dessert shop, and a coffee/bookshop overlooking the garden.
I imagine myself starting with coffee and breakfast in the garden, admiring the architecture and the light, and then spending the morning touring the collection until it’s time for lunch on the 5th floor and finally finish in splendour with an assortment of Korean sweets for dessert. Before I head back to the airport, or rather, before I open my eyes and realise this is still an imaginary trip, I fill my tote bags with all the books and pastries that I can fit, as well manically shop for some Korean beauty and skincare products to stockpile my very real at home spa (my bathroom), which right now, is the most luxurious place I’ve ‘been’ to since the lockdown started.
Soon though, I’m sure, I will be devouring those honey filled yakgwas and exploring the art and surrounding architecture, all while trying to find a reason to justify the excessive skin-care purchase… but this time for real.
Leslie Ramos is an art historian and founder of ArtEater, an independent consultancy for philanthropists, not-for-profits, and artists. Based in London, she has built effective philanthropic fundraising strategies, as well as strong development planning, for clients around the world. Leslie is also completing her Doctorate in Contemporary Latin American Art at the University of Cambridge and is passionate about art, food and travelling… in no particular order.