The myth of star-crossed lovers Altair and Vega is the subject of 11 contemporary works of art in Seoul, brought together by beauty brand Sulwhasoo to connect different Asian cultures, while showcasing the genius of South Korean artists.
The story tells of lovers – a fairy weaver and a mortal cowherd – separated by the gods for their forbidden romance. Transformed into the stars known as Vega and Altair respectively, they are divided by the Milky Way, until sympathetic magpies and crows form a bridge on the seventh day of the seventh lunar month to allow for an annual reunion.
“This story is shared across Korea, China and Japan, and it has strong emotional content that touches all of us,” says Jeong Yu Jin, Sulwhasoo’s spokesman for the exhibition. “Picking this folk tale as our theme bridges our different backgrounds and draws on what is universal among our cultural heritage.”
Sulwhasoo has been curating art shows with a strong cultural bent for eight years running. Says Jeong: “What we want to do is to show younger generations that our heritage can be fascinating and relevant. These contemporary artists show how they can translate what is perceived as old-fashioned into something new and exciting.”
Shadow Bridge, a commissioned installation by South Korean architect duo Lee Seung Taek and Lim Mi Jung, reflects the rarity of the two lovers meeting. At about 3.30pm, for just a few minutes at the entrance to Dosan Park, a long shadow is cast, forming an ephemeral “bridge” between two solitary art installations. Within the shadow, there are outlines of birds in flight.
Over at Sulwhasoo’s store, nightfall is about the right time to view multimedia artist Park Yeo Joo’s work, Magic Hour On The Milky Way. Glimmering LEDs suspended above the staircases from the first to fourth floor cast an almost psychedelic, pulsating glow.
Park says: “Stairs are a space in between and transitional, like the bridge connecting the lovers. So as visitors use the stairs, I want them to think of the brightest, happiest moments in their lives, just as the lovers felt as they cross the Milky Way during the magic hour, a short-lived but beautiful period.”
At the same time, the brand is casting a spotlight on Jeong Gwan Chae, a nationally recognised master artisan. Gwan Chae, known for his work in reviving the art of jjok yeomsaek, or natural indigo dyeing using blue grass, is engaged to create beautifully dyed bojagi (Korean: traditional wrapping cloth) and fabric book covers for the exhibition. All proceeds from sales of artisanal works by Gwan Chae go towards supporting South Korea’s intangible cultural heritage.
Once Upon A Time: The Two Love Stars, The Altair and Vega runs until Nov 13. At Sulwhasoo flagship store, 18, Dosan-daero 45-gil, Gangnam-gu, Seoul, Korea, and the adjacent Dosan Park.