Last week Seoul became the center of attention as Frieze landed in the capital, bringing a crowd of international art professionals and aficionados for the first time in Korea. Willing to set apart from the buzz and commercial-focused events by offering a compelling possibility for discovering Korean art in a multi sensorial way, collector and curator Su Park invited local and international guests to MIND•FULL•NESS, the first experiential exhibition launched under Maison Suri, her art & lifestyle curation brand. Presented in the mesmerising architectural space of Villa de Parnell, and featuring over 35 artists, MIND•FULL•NESS has been an occasion to dive deep in the universe of Korean contemporary art in a new light, with sound and scent curation as a process of activation and reflection on curatorial possibilities beyond the solely visual response.
Su Park, a creative director, collector, curator and entrepreneur in art and fashion based between Paris, Seoul, and Miami, has been the mastermind behind the whole project. As previously mentioned, she founded Maison Suri, a lifestyle brand based in Paris and Seoul, with a direction that sees art as something valuable and present in every corner of one’s life. Through Maison Suri, Su aims to redefine the way one approaches art, beauty, and aesthetic refinement – seeing it as a boundary-less fulfilling experience.
Intrigued by her vision and captured by its first full-scale concretisation in Seoul, we sat down with Su in the heart of Samcheong-dong – the art neighbourhood of Seoul – asking her to share with us about the exhibition, and to tell us more about her journey and what will be next.
In conversation with Su Park
Can you tell us more about the event you hosted during Frieze?
MIND•FULL•NESS is a large-scale multi sensory exhibition in a wonderful architectural site in Korea, coinciding with the opening of the inaugural Frieze Seoul in September. I wanted to introduce Korean contemporary art to the visiting international public: after years of the pandemic everyone seemed excited to discover the new global art hub that virally became the trendsetting culture over the past few years. Having been between Korea and abroad my whole life, I believe that the country has been honing its deep-rooted values and authentic characteristics for many decades, elements that are finally getting their well deserved spotlight. And I feel as though a personal mission to deliver this precious value in a fluid, organic way.
Our exhibition offers an immersive journey on pivotal aspects of Korean contemporary art. We have invited more than 35 artists and worked with galleries and creative directors in a collaborative spirit and shared vision. Featuring more than 100 artworks from site specific installation to small objets, encompassing a wide range of mediums, the exhibition explores the power of bringing healing and balance into an otherwise fast-paced life through personal and collective meditation. All within an encouraging environment for like-minded people exhausted from the old ways of doing.
You are an art collector, entrepreneur and you have your own lifestyle brand. You live between Paris and Seoul, but also travel often to go to art fairs and events around the globe. Could you tell us more about your backstory?
I was born and raised in Seoul. At 13, I left for the States where I attended boarding school and university. I was a curious child – I still am. I loved learning, forming perspectives and sharing stories. During a gap year, I took a three-month solo trip to Europe, where my pure drive and passion for art, dormant for some years, were rekindled. I loved the hours that went by getting lost in the places surrounded by beautiful art and stories. At Albertina in Vienna I overheard a docent unveiling secrets about the paintings and artists exhibited, and something clicked: I wanted to study, live and breathe art. I believed that this curiosity had to be nurtured, while given the privilege to fully engage in learning. When I went back to university, I changed my major to art history with an expertise on French art of the 19th and 20th centuries.
This journey led me to Paris, where I studied at AUP and Sorbonne. It was incredible to be able to live in a city that was itself a museum: I knew I wanted to relocate and make a life here. And suddenly I was 13 again, coming as a stranger to this place and making it home, it was such an exhilarating feeling! Today, there is a part of “parisienne” in me.
Did these experiences help you shape the direction you wanted to have in your life?
Absolutely. Each part of them has brought me where I am in terms of perspective, passions, and pursuits in life. As for art, I experienced the industry side spending time at Sotheby’s Institute of Art in New York and working at major art fairs. While I got to know more about the business-oriented part of the art world, I felt disconnected with the ways I had been perceiving art. Maybe I was naïve, but the exposure into this fast-paced marketplace that mimicked the finance industry wasn’t something I expected stepping out from libraries and art studios. This experience discouraged the pure joy and value I connected art with and got me thinking: If I’m ever going to be part of the art world, I want to do it on my own terms and contribute in my own ways.
And how did these experiences contribute to your vision as an entrepreneur in the arts and creative industry?
With Maison Suri, I have a clear vision of creating something not only visually beautiful but also emotionally and sensibly connected: I curate my aesthetic to reflect my values. My aim is to connect art in every corner of one’s life, in a way that recalls the concept of art de vivre.
As I’m based in different global regions, I’m bringing an expertise that comes from familiarity with three different markets: the US, Korea, and Europe. Asians often see the “West” as a unit block, and vice-versa. Being part of so many circles and having worked in different declinations of the creative industry, I freely connect with artists whether they are new, emerging, or bluechip, there’s no real barrier. Years of various social and professional experiences made me realise how significant the disconnect is between the established art world and the emerging generation: one of my goals is to bridge this gap.
What is your approach in collecting art?
In personal collecting, my approach is raw: I strongly believe in following my gut. Do I want to put this work in my space? Would I want to live with this work for a long time? Will this work bring me the emotions I pursue in life? Usually, these questions can be answered almost instantly when I encounter a work. I see a lot of people develop their collecting journey based on listening to others’ opinions and cloning “mainstream” trends without pursuing personal taste or emotional response. It happens quite a lot in Korean society, as the market is quite new and young to most people while the overall enthusiasm and growth are internationally noteworthy. This “hyped” nature of the scene can easily lead people to be blind and biased with limited vision and thought.
However, I believe collecting is about how you build your own relation with the artworks, and that interaction is completely up to your own power. There are many unsure and unexpected elements in life, but how you interact with your choice of art and what you put in your own space not only shows and expresses who you are but also can be a proactive choice to develop personal taste and values. At the end of the day, you come back home to your precious works—the art that surrounds you is for you.
And how does this mindset translate into your own space?
I live a very fast-paced and public life, so at home my style of curating and collecting is driven by a willingness to bring light and peace in the space for my emotional comfort and aesthetic nurturing as a sensible response. For me, to interact with the works means being inspired and feeling good. I like contemplative works that are able to aesthetically and emotionally light up the space that surrounds them, in a way that quite literally upgrades the space and uplift my life.
Does this connection that you have with art – and art as meditation – come from the fact that you are an artist yourself?
Art helps me release and heal in an emotional and meditative way. I can appreciate the excruciating work that goes behind creating, having experienced it myself. Having this multi-angle approach led me to an understanding of art as a whole, being able to connect deeper with other artists and engage into their vision, story and mind. That initiated my strong relationship with artists, connecting with them globally and getting touched by their stories. As my work with them is founded on this genuine connection, I feel that I have a purpose and mission to accomplish.
Contents Director : Starch Haus @starch.haus
Photographer : Jeong A Kim @jagraphy_space
© courtesy of Maison Suri