Mongwoo Joseph Kim / by Angsi Kwak (nr. 4 in the poster)

3 december 2018 (monday, kl 16-20)

(Kungsholmen) St. Eriksgatan 9, Stockholm, Sweden




(Mongwoo’s showwindow decoration by Mongwoo in the past exhibition of  Sweden, 2016)



Mongwoo Joseph Kim Story (1)

Growing up in cancer, leukemia, and other complications, Joseph Kim couldn’t go to school any more. Dropping out of elementary school, he had studied by himself and managed to make money by drawing pictures on the streets of Insa-dong in Seoul. Although many foreign tourists visited the street, no one recognized him. However, a German noticed him. That was Thomas Martin, a world-famous art collector, who owns works of art from Picasso, Chagall, and Andy Warhol to other world-renowned masterpieces. As of today, he is 80 years old.

When he first saw Joseph Kim, he couldn’t leave there for 5 hours to look at Joseph. This was because he felt tempted to know whether the painter’s drawing hand was just a coincidently working just for the moment. Thomas and Joseph started their relationship, Thomas kept sending medicine that costs 1 million won (about 1 thousand dollars) for a jar. Mr. Martin put so much effort for Joseph’s health because he wanted Joseph to live longer. Joseph said that Thomas shell out 0.7 billion won (about 0.7 million dollars) in that way.

 Painting on streets just to make his dream come true – opening an exhibition before he dies, Joseph Kim finally had a chance to show his works in a party in New York, United states. This was the occasion which world’s famous critics and art collectors visited. It was the place where masterpieces were traded, including those of world renowned Picasso, Joan Miro, Van Gogh as well as the Korea’s famous Jungseop Lee. Next to the prodigies’ works were the humbly displayed three pieces of the only 30-year-old painter.

 Meanwhile, one of prominent collectors in the U.S. was stunned by his works when discovered them in the corner and bought 300 and more of Kim’s. Every collector followed the purchase. Shipped for sales for a year, 500 pieces of Kim sold like hotcakes in just two days. At that time, Joseph’s pictures were priced lower than its value since he was an almost unknown. Among the works sold at that time, “The bird” was sold to a German collector at first, then purchased again by a Korea’s wealthy real-estate mogul at 0.1 billion won. This is very exceptional because young artists’ works are not sold at that price especially when those are not painted at the earliest.

This made Thomas smile as he was the one who found out the painter’s potential, however it was the unfortunate moment when Joseph earned too much money all of sudden. He became a celebrity among collectors overnight. Ironically, Joseph Kim was unknown only in Korea. Some disapproved the fact that an elementary school drop-out got fame among international collectors of wealth. This is maybe because meeting such a famous collector who has Picasso or Chagall is practically impossible even to painters who have graduated from the most recognized universities in Korea.

For this reason, some people didn’t approve the best selling phenomenon. They say that it was, so to speak, just a coincidence of the unknown artist who was discovered by a notable collector. But, Thomas Martin backed up Joseph, repeating that he can achieve fame when he is still alive where as poor painters like Van Gogh could do so after death. Not knowing about the world, Joseph jumped in to antique business with his sudden earnings and ended up being bankrupt in a year. This made his health condition too deteriorated and out of his control. To make matters worse, he hammered his left hand because he felt skeptical about his style of painting. His life as a painter was about to end at that point.

Due to financial difficulties, he couldn’t even afford cheap diner meals. Although he was suffered, he bought paints to make pictures whenever he could get tiny amount of money. After paying his debt, not much money was left in his pocket that he couldn’t have even a piece of bread. Instant coffee from a vending machine with couple of coins was his only meal. Dying was only option he could think of in such poverty and hunger.

Unable to pay the rent, he was about to kicked out from his day work room, and his night workroom was out of electricity. For sure, this poor painter must have been dead unless the German collector hasn’t bought the picture of a lion. Joseph said painting that picture healed him. Just like a lion not disturbed even in loud noise, he was determined to rise by himself as in the novel ‘Go alone like musso’s horn[1]’ ; he remained gentle in appearance, whereas tough and strong inside .

Although it seemed that he has been through so much agony, he has worked pretty much in happiness and excitement. And the emotions were deeply moved him that the hardships became insignificant. We can’t disagree that Joseph was really fortunate to be referred as ‘Korean Picasso’ and ‘a painter whose single work costs 0.1billion won’ thanks to Thomas Martin’s appreciation. These epithets might have motivated the buyers to accumulate his works.

The dedication from them helped Joseph to stand up again. He totally strove to reborn as a right hand painter to replace his broken left hand. The temporary success and the long frustration shaped him into more humble and mature artist. …(continue)

[1] ‘Go alone like Musso’s horn’ : A novel by Ji-young Gong, 1994, Moonyemadang Publishing Co. Ltd., This novel made her become a famous writer of feminism and filmed later in 1995

October 28, 2018 at 5:25 am
Category: exhibition