The Shin Collection's first Asian show set to open in Seoul

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The Shin Collection's first Asian show set to open in Seoul
Oscar Wilde (Irish, 1854 – 1900),Two leaves, pp 31-34, from The Picture of Dorian Gray in Lippincott's Monthly Magazine for July, 1890, with Wilde's autograph revisions toward the book-version published in April 1891, leaves smudged and thumbed.

SEOUL.- The Shin Collection will present the first Korean exhibition of the Shin Collection. From Toulouse-Lautrec, whom Picasso adored and whose energetic post-impressionist style distinguishes him from his compatriots, to Balthus, Giacometti's lifelong friend and the great, unmatched provocateur, the Shin Collection includes some of the most important figures of the twentieth century avant-garde.

From September 1 – 3, 2022, Hong Gyu Shin’s collection, over twenty years in the making, will be presented to the Seoul public. The Shin Collection includes over 50 works of art, many of which have been loaned to and exhibited at the world's leading modern and contemporary art museums, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Guggenheim, Tate, and the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA). This exhibition is composed of almost seventy paintings, drawings, sculptures, and photographs, ranging in style and art historical epoch.

Personal collections, unlike gallery shows or curated exhibitions, offer an incisive and subtle look into both a specific art historical narrative and the collector’s personal history. In turn, the collector is inseparable from the collection, as the former shapes the latter. The majority of these selected works from the Shin Collection span from early Impressionism to twenty-first century contemporary art. However, there are a number of works that date back even earlier, including a 1794 ukiyo-e print from the equally mystifying as mystical woodblock pioneer, Toshusai Sharaku, who made over 140 works in the span of ten months before disappearing from the annals of art history. Shin inaugurated his collection with an ukiyo-e woodblock by Hiroshige, with ukiyo-e playing an important and influential role in manifold works included in this exhibition. This influence of ukiyo-e is apparent in the formal composition of David Hockney’s Isolde and Brangane (1987); the confrontation between the two characters, chosen from the eponymous opera by Wagner, was inspired by the dramatic kabuki scenes proffered by eighteenth century ukiyo-e artists. Henri Toulouse-Lautrec, whose portrait, La Pierreuse Gabrielle (1893), is on display in this exhibition, was also an avid fan of Japonisme, collecting Hokusai and Kitagawa’s prints. Toulouse-Lautrec often drew from the vertical format of ukiyo-e and used kakemono in his backgrounds. The unusual cropping featured in both Hockney and Toulouse-Lautrec’s paintings reveals the pervading influence of ukiyo-e amongst nineteenth century artists in France. These two works further speak to the dovetailing of Western avant-garde sensibilities and the formal composition of ukiyo-e.

The New York Times recently published an article, “Shin Gallery Charms and Surprises With a Motley Collection”, lauding Shin, the “renegade gallerist and collector”, and his ten-year anniversary exhibition, comprised of “idiosyncratic” works from the Shin Collection that span art history. The article underscores Shin’s unique practice of art collecting, which includes travelling across the globe to find and rediscover artists deserving art historical re-evaluation. This distinguishes Shin’s art collection and approach to collecting. Indeed, the collection has a penchant for either rediscovering overlooked artists or exhibiting lesser-known works by art historical bulwarks. This exhibition also includes a number of works by the Korean avant-garde from the last fifty years, including works by Chung Chang-Sup, Tschang-Yeul Kim, Choong Sup Lim, and Myeung-Ro Youn. A number of these artists explore approaches to abstraction that, when displayed alongside the abstract art of Beauford Delaney—a pioneer of the Harlem Renaissance and a critically important black artist from the United States—offer viewers the opportunity to situate abstraction and experimentation within a global context.

One of the highlights of this collection is the 1947 oil painting of a auburn-haired girl by Balthus, whom Picasso extolled as a true painter incomparable to his contemporaries. Never derivative and averting abstraction at any cost, Balthus’s exacting, sober, and unforgiving stripe of realism is wholly unmatched. This painting, Adolescente Aux Cheveux Roux (1947), is painted in Balthus’ characteristically austere style, with the girl posed in a forlorn setting while she plays with her hair, her titled head both indicating her boredom and underscoring the realism that Balthus explored throughout his oeuvre. This is the first time the work is being shown in Korea. Balthus produced approximately 350 paintings in his lifetime, most of which are in museum collections. Other understatedly suggestive works included a 1933 piece titled Sade-Pas Terminé, made by arguably the greatest photographer of art history, Man Ray. An edited version of this photo, titled Monument to D.A.F. de Sade (1933), was used as the 1935 edition cover of the Marquis de Sade’s infamous book, “120 Days of Sodom”. The work was acquired during an auction at Christie’s in May 2022. Other works and memorabilia similarly invoke the intimate relationship between visual art and literature, including two leaves from Oscar Wilde’s great 1890 novel, The Portrait of Dorian Gray, that feature Wilde’s personally penned revisions. These are not just works of art but pieces of visual cultural history.

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