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Of the works adorning Sulwhasoo's boutique in Gangnam, the one by the FriiH collective is the most dramatic - it comprises blue steel plates woven through the lattice wrapping round the building.

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Magic Hour on the Milky Way plays on light, referencing the 24 minutes between sunset and darkness.

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A resin table and two lampshades by Fabrikr greets visitors at the entrance to the building.

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The work called Shadow Bridge is a wooden panel with bird motif cutouts, referring to the Korean tale of two star-crossed lovers.

Sulwhasoo's nod to art and heritage

The Korean skincare line's boutique in Seoul gives artists free rein to interpret a Korean tale, and adds wow inside and out.
Nov 11, 2016 5:50 AM

IT'S been a banner year for Sulwhasoo, Korea's leading skincare brand.

Not only did it unveil its ultra-designer 1,959 sq m flagship store at the upscale Gangnam district this year, it invited five collectives of architects, designers and artists to create site-specific installations and weave art into the building's design DNA. Another six artists created art on site, in the nearby Dosan Park.

Sulwhasoo's first standalone boutique, designed by Shanghai-based duo Neri and Hu, has, as the key visual element, a "lantern" structure wrapping around the building like a gold-coloured scaffolding.

The brass frames go around the facade of the building, and crop up again in the interior design, and also give structure to the space on the fifth-floor rooftop.

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Fairy tale theme

Three of the collectives made full use of the clean and contemporary lines of the frame and the building for their art works, which had to be interpretations of a Korean fairy tale.

The tale, titled The Two Love Stars: The Altair and Vega, is about two star-crossed lovers who are banished to opposite ends of the Milky Way, and who get to meet only on the seventh of July, when a flock of magpies would form a bridge to reunite them for just one day. If that sounds familiar, it is the Korean version of the traditional Chinese story of the cowherd and weaver girl, the story behind the Qixi Festival.

The most dramatic use of the building's "lantern" frame was by the FriiH collective, comprising the works of architects Jungwan Bae and Sangyeon Hwang and media artist Jinok Jo. The work features 100 four-cm blue steel plates folded into the lattice work of the frames to symbolise undulating waves reaching up to the sky. The plates weave in and out vertically, and have a dynamic effect because of the small changes in their placement and colour tone; they look different every hour, as the changing altitude and angle of the sun changes the colour of the plates.

Artist Yeojoo Park made use of the stairs just outside the Sulwhasoo entrance as her canvas, and based the work on a nugget of information from a Japanese film. She says: "In the movie, it was said that the magic hour between the start of sunset and complete darkness is 24 minutes - so I've created this changing light installation for visitors going up or down the stairs, to evoke that feeling of brevity, just like the short time the lovers share in the fairytale."

The fine-arts graduate said this was her second time working with lights, as she prefers exploring flat, linear spaces.

On the whole, the contemporary art pieces work well with the luxe building.

At the entrance to the building, visitors are welcomed by a resin table placed between two lampshades made from wedding-dress fabric, created by Fabrikr, a design duo.

Sound artist Joon Kim's contribution within the boutique is a soundscape, a re-creation of a mini forest.

Art in the park

Another five pieces of works are sited at the nearby Dosan Park, which is named after a Korean national hero.

There, architect couple stpmj - or Seungtaek Lee and Mijung Lim - have created Shadow Bridge, which best captures the spirit of the Altair and Vega tale.

An upright wooden panel, with the outlines of bird motifs cut out of it, symbolises the bridge of birds which unite the two stars. The panel is placed in such a way that it will cast its shadow on a bench at a specific time in the afternoon.

Yujin Jeong, spokeswoman for Amorepacific, which owns the Sulwhasoo brand, said the Sulwha Cultural Exhibition was started 10 years ago to give contemporary artists a platform to reinterpret traditions and cultural heritage.

"As Sulwhasoo's brand and products are rooted in tradition, this is a way to reach out to and communicate with our younger customers," she said.

Artists also appreciate the invitation to be creative while following a brief, and to have their works seen by a wider audience, she added.

  • Sulwhasoo will have a photographic exhibition of this year's Sulwha Cultural Exhibition, "Once Upon a Time: The Two Love Stars, the Altair and Vega", at ION Level 1, Atrium, from Nov 16 to 29