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(Yonhap Interview) Cellist Youn Ji-won combines paintings with music for boundless art experience

14:53 March 27, 2023

By Kim Eun-jung

SEOUL, March 27 (Yonhap) -- Youn Ji-won is a cellist and a self-taught art curator who thinks looking at paintings in museums is not enough and wants to invite people to the boundless art world in unconventional ways.

Youn has created her own term, "lecture concert," to select artworks under a theme, tell stories behind paintings and perform classical music, sometimes with course meals loosely inspired by the themes, which together offer comprehensive art experiences.

Inspired by her enthusiasm for art, coupled with her education in music and knowledge in art history, Youn wants to encourage contemporary audiences to observe their everyday life through artists' personal perspectives.

"I am exploring ways to put familiar elements into perspectives of liberal arts," the 36-year-old said in an interview with Yonhap News Agency, following her lecture concert at CJ CGV's Cine de Chef in Yongsan, central Seoul, a premium theater with a restaurant, on Saturday.

Cellist-cum-curator Youn Ji-won is seen in this photo provided by art content creator Art Complex. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)

"Rather than dissecting and interpreting art pieces, I intend to tell stories of paintings under themes people can easily relate to in their daily lives. These days, I get more sources in liberal art books," she added.

Although Youn graduated from the prestigious Korea National University of Arts and the Conservatoire de Versailles (CRR de Versailles) in France, she deviated from a straight course and carved out her own career with the title of "curator cellist," the first such in the nation, and established an art content startup, Art Complex, in 2016.

Youn said she discovered the potential of bridging the gap between classical music and visual art during her years in Paris, where she visited many world-class museums and hosted house concerts with her friends.

Although she came back to Seoul and passed the state exam for museum curator in 2018, her realm of activity has not been confined to museums and galleries.

She has met audiences in concert halls, theaters, festivals and hotels, and even appears on TV and radio shows to give a richer insight into artworks across genres, under various themes, including cities, light, color and food. In 2021, Youn authored a book titled "Art Museum Where Music Flows."

Through her journey, the introverted artist transformed herself as a storyteller, a stage performer, and a content creator known for enthralling audiences with a microphone and a cello.

This photo provided by cellist-cum-curator Youn Ji-won shows her lecture concert, a combination of a live concert with lectures on artworks. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)

In a recent lecture concert in collaboration with multiplex operator CJ CGV, she told stories about influential artists known for their obsession with lights, including Claude Monet, Vincent van Gogh and Rembrandt, along with a cello performance and a four-course meal inspired by the theme.

For instance, Youn told the tragic life of Vincent van Gogh and his painting "The Starry Night," and played Claude Debussy's "The Starry Night" on cello in a contemplative, slightly melancholy mood.

Her ultimate goal, she said, is to expand the notion of art curation by offering comprehensive cultural programs that go beyond the wall of the museum and into society.

"I think a lecture concert becomes complete when the audience thinks about the themes and relates them to their daily lives, not when I say, 'Thanks for coming,'" she said. "I want to share the message that art is not difficult and even classical music can be very fun."



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