Art of the “VIPs”: Korean artist Haegue Yang at Kunsthaus Graz, Universalmuseum Joanneum

Korean artist Haegue Yang addresses the social importance of “VIPs” and their place within a city’s cultural landscape.

On show until 28 January 2018, “Phase I” of the exhibition invites local “VIPs” to participate through lending furniture of their choice to the display.

Haegue Yang, "VIP's Union”, Exhibition view. Photo: Universalmuseum Joanneum/N. Lackner. Image courtesy Universalmuseum Joanneum

Haegue Yang, “VIP’s Union”, 22 June – 28 January 2017, Installation view at Kunsthaus Graz, Universalmuseum Joanneum. Photo: Universalmuseum Joanneum/N. Lackner. Image courtesy Universalmuseum Joanneum.

“How is the social importance of VIPs defined, and what is an art institution’s attitude towards this?” These are the questions that inform Haegue Yang’s current exhibition, “VIP’s Union – Phase I”, at the Kunsthaus Graz, Universalmuseum Joanneum. The second phase of the exhibition – “VIP’s Union – Phase II” – will follow in February 2018 and run until April.

Haegue Yang, "VIP's Union”, 22 June - 28 January 2017, Installation view at Kunsthaus Graz, Universalmuseum Joanneum. Photo: Universalmuseum Joanneum/N. Lackner. Image courtesy Universalmuseum Joanneum

Haegue Yang, “VIP’s Union”, 22 June – 28 January 2017, installation view at Kunsthaus Graz, Universalmuseum Joanneum. Photo: Universalmuseum Joanneum/N. Lackner. Image courtesy Universalmuseum Joanneum.

The concept of the exhibition is simple: the artist has asked selected ‘very important persons’ from the city of Graz and its environs, to lend a chair or table of their choice to display within the gallery space. Those asked include individuals who already have a relationship with the institution – such as the mayor of Graz, the Styrian minister for economy, culture and tourism, or the Board of Trustees – alongside those who have been approached as potential VIP supporters.

Haegue Yang, "VIP's Union”, 22 June - 28 January 2017, Installation view at Kunsthaus Graz, Universalmuseum Joanneum. Photo: Universalmuseum Joanneum/N. Lackner. Image courtesy Universalmuseum Joanneum

Haegue Yang, “VIP’s Union”, 22 June – 28 January 2017, installation view at Kunsthaus Graz, Universalmuseum Joanneum. Photo: Universalmuseum Joanneum/N. Lackner. Image courtesy Universalmuseum Joanneum.

The amalgamation of mismatched chairs, grouped together around tables, bars or windows, almost resemble a motley crew of living people; in this sense, explains the gallery, the use of different ”voices” within the VIP line up allows a “collective portrait” of the gallery to emerge, blended from different individual elements that together “create an abstract and yet also very concrete picture of the cultural landscape of Graz and Styria”.

Haegue Yang, "VIP's Union”, 22 June - 28 January 2017, Installation view at Kunsthaus Graz, Universalmuseum Joanneum. Photo: Universalmuseum Joanneum/N. Lackner. Image courtesy Universalmuseum Joanneum

Haegue Yang, “VIP’s Union”, 22 June – 28 January 2017, installation view at Kunsthaus Graz, Universalmuseum Joanneum. Photo: Universalmuseum Joanneum/N. Lackner. Image courtesy Universalmuseum Joanneum.

As the exhibition’s curator Barbara Steiner comments,

Haegue Yang’s exhibition VIP’s Union explores the network of Kunsthaus Graz by asking ‘very important persons’ from the city and region to lend a chair or table of their choice. The final instalment shows not only the relations but says a lot about the lenders and how they want to present themselves through a piece of furniture. Furthermore, it adds a touch of living room atmosphere to the Kunsthaus Graz.

Haegue Yang, "VIP's Union”, 22 June - 28 January 2017, Installation view at Kunsthaus Graz, Universalmuseum Joanneum. Photo: Universalmuseum Joanneum/N. Lackner. Image courtesy Universalmuseum Joanneum

Haegue Yang, “VIP’s Union”, 22 June – 28 January 2017, installation view at Kunsthaus Graz, Universalmuseum Joanneum. Photo: Universalmuseum Joanneum/N. Lackner. Image courtesy Universalmuseum Joanneum.

Haegue Yang works between Seoul and Berlin, having received her BFA from Seoul National University, South Korea in 1994. Her work has been shown internationally at exhibitions including “Lingering Nous”, Centre Pompidou, Paris (2016), “An Opaque Wind Park in Six Folds”, Serralves Museum of Contemporary Art, Porto (2016) and “The Malady of Death: Écrire and Lire” (commissioned by M+), Hong Kong (2015). She has been featured across many biennales, including the 13th Lyon Biennale, the Sharjah Biennial 12 and dOCUMENTA.

Haegue Yang, "VIP's Union”, 22 June - 28 January 2017, Installation view at Kunsthaus Graz, Universalmuseum Joanneum. Photo: Universalmuseum Joanneum/N. Lackner. Image courtesy Universalmuseum Joanneum

Haegue Yang, “VIP’s Union”, 22 June – 28 January 2017, installation view at Kunsthaus Graz, Universalmuseum Joanneum. Photo: Universalmuseum Joanneum/N. Lackner. Image courtesy Universalmuseum Joanneum.

The first phase of this exhibition displays the furniture throughout the building, transforming the “VIP” room into a space that is open to all visitors. The exhibition is linked to previous presentations from this series, shown in Berlin, Bristol, Antwerp, Bonn and Seoul. The result is a sometimes humorous, sometimes serious exhibition, which questions social mobility and the role of certain individuals within wider society.

Haegue Yang, "VIP's Union”, 22 June - 28 January 2017, Installation view at Kunsthaus Graz, Universalmuseum Joanneum. Photo: Universalmuseum Joanneum/N. Lackner. Image courtesy Universalmuseum Joanneum

Haegue Yang, “VIP’s Union”, 22 June – 28 January 2017, installation view at Kunsthaus Graz, Universalmuseum Joanneum. Photo: Universalmuseum Joanneum/N. Lackner. Image courtesy Universalmuseum Joanneum.

Haegue Yang’s practice focuses on the power of household objects and materials, questioning their emotional significance and the meaning we place on them. Her early work focused on carefully choreographed installations, which served as performance pieces: using seemingly ordinary objects, such as Venetian blinds or spotlights to prompt a sensory response from the viewer, through bright lights, gusts of air or oscillating shadows.

Haegue Yang, "VIP's Union”, 22 June - 28 January 2017, Installation view at Kunsthaus Graz, Universalmuseum Joanneum. Photo: Universalmuseum Joanneum/N. Lackner. Image courtesy Universalmuseum Joanneum

Haegue Yang, “VIP’s Union”, 22 June – 28 January 2017, installation view at Kunsthaus Graz, Universalmuseum Joanneum. Photo: Universalmuseum Joanneum/N. Lackner. Image courtesy Universalmuseum Joanneum.

Yang’s current work still uses ordinary household objects – in this case, commonplace chairs and tables – referring to art history, history, literature and political biographies, whilst

employing hidden social structures that repeatedly evoke forms of different communities, and so refer to recurring themes such as migration, post-colonial diaspora, forced exile and social mobility.

Anna Jamieson

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“VIP’s Union – Phase I & II” by Haegue Yang is on view in two stages, “Phase I” from 23 June 2017 to 28 January 2018 and “Phase II” from 14 February to 2 April 2018, at Kunsthaus Graz, Universalmuseum Joanneum, Lendkai 1, 8020 Graz, Austria.

Related topics: museum showssculptureinstallationmixed mediaKorean artists

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