30th April- 22nd August
Opening hours: Tuesday- Friday 10am- 9pm, Saturday, Sunday and National Holidays 10am- 7pm, closed Monday
Admission: Adults 12,000 won, Teens 10,000 won, Children 8,000 won
Auguste Rodin (1840-1917), I’m sure you aware, is a pioneer of modern sculpture. He dragged the art form kicking and screaming from the idealism of the Greeks and decorative aesthetics of both the Baroque and Neo Baroque dominating styles. to something new and exciting. His works are renowned for their portrayal of emotion through their textured tumultuous surfaces and emphasis on the individuality of his subjects. From big, ambitious works to smaller ones, all are arresting in their sheer PHYSICALITY if this make sense. I often feel that some invisible hands are manipulating the sculptures as I gaze upon them. No wonder people were gawping, wide eyed, as I went to view the Rodin Retrospective currently showing in Seoul Museum of Art.
Hats off to the curators of this exhibition. Works are presented thematically in wonderful airy rooms, each of which have been painted in what I would describe as muted 1920′s colours; a dull blue green, a pale lilac, olive green and classic gallery red to describe a few. The predominantly black and white sculptures sit perfectly amongst these colours. Strange but inoffensive additions to the exhibition are the recreated garden arches in front of a giant picture of the Rodin Museum in France, and false, back lit windows in two rooms that create the feel of some sort of Neo-Classical grand hall. The ‘Gates of Hell,’ are substituted by a disappointing three metre high photo. However, I’ve just found out that there is a Rodin Museum in Seoul which houses a cast of the gates. Hooray!
113 sculptures realised in plaster, bronze and marble constitute as the star attractions of the exhibition. A marble example of ‘The Thinker,’ (1907) is there, as is ‘The Kiss,’ (1889). It would have been a great touch if ‘The Burghers of Calais,’ (1889) had been exhibited sans plinth as Rodin had intended. Nevertheless, the magic of seeing these works up so close is astounding. One can appreciate the tremendous physicality of the the oft unfinished looking sculptures and castings. Works of varying sizes prevail and I took note that the smaller works should not be dismissed as studies but pieces of art in their own right, wether they are headless or limbless torsos, or lone hands. It’s possible to really pore over the uncased smaller sculptures, exploring every wonderfully gouged nook and cranny.
Rodin’s depictions of the human physique are amazing. Muscles and eyes bulge. Nostrils flare. Fists clench. And the feet… oh! the feet! They are my favourite part. Veiny, tendony feet. Toes curl and appear to grip their bases as if their lives depended on it. Each body part has been considered carefully to fit with the emotion being conveyed in the works.
42 less well known but equally incredible line drawings are on show too. Female nudes have been completed with minimal lines and blocks of pale watercolours. The most remarkable of these for me was a selection of small studies of dancers from the Royal Ballet of Cambodia (1906). They are simple in execution, yet the few delicate lines convey the graceful movements of the figures.
Aside from a small pamphlet on the exhibition, there is no written English, which is disappointing. However, the works speak for themselves through their amazing craftsmanship and meticulously defined moods. Unmissable.