(South Korean, born 1976; active in New York)
Metropolitan Museum Project (Modern Art), 2009
Lambda print on Diasec
Museum purchase with funds provided by the 1072 Society, 2011
By Dennis Harper, curator of collections and exhibitions
Originally from Seoul, Republic of Korea, Sangbin IM came to the United States on a Fulbright scholarship to study art at Yale University. He has resided in New York since 2006 while completing a doctorate at Columbia University. After arriving in America, IM achieved wide international exposure for his distinctive art, with exhibitions in Basel, Beijing, Dubai, Hong Kong, London, Paris, Shanghai, Toronto, Zurich, and numerous sites in this country. His oversize prints are hyper-realistic inventions that seamlessly combine hundreds of photographs with digital images of his own paintings to create fantastic or idealized artificial environments.
IM’s recent manipulated subjects have included vast public spaces such as Central Park, Tiananmen Square, Times Square, and some of the world’s great museums. The present print is from a series of nine that focus on the extensive collections of objects at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. IM has acted as “curator” to assemble his favorite works of modern art at the Met in an outlandishly dense salon hanging. Across a monumentally scaled panel filled with minute details, IM at once acknowledges the canon of accepted icons of modern art while poking gentle fun at the voracious collecting capacity of certain dominant museums, all in a composition that would not seem out of place as a New Yorker magazine cover.
Underlying the image’s slightly humorous bearing, IM’s firm grasp of western art history, theory, and collecting practices is apparent. The image evokes earlier such compositions as Charles Willson Peale’s The Artist in His Museum (1822), wherein Peale literally draws back the curtain in a self-portrait to reveal his vast organized collection, the first museum in the United States. As with that original “cabinet of curiosities,” IM’s collection pairs odd bedfellows, reminiscent as well of the juxtapositions found in installations at the Barnes Foundation. In IM’s image, one finds a blue-period figure by Picasso facing Warhol’s Liz Taylor, while Van Gogh similarly rubs shoulders with Alex Katz. IM’s overarching composition is perhaps an intentional nod to a major tenet in modern art. He avoids rendering a deep spatial perspective, preferring instead to employ a flat, geometric design, reinforcing modernism’s primacy of the object over illusion.