“Cindy” Kim Nuri, owner and creative mind behind The Painted Chair Cafe
BUSAN, South Korea — If you are yearning for some artistic inspiration and a good coffee buzz to go with it, it turns out you don’t have to look any further than the streets of Kyungsung-dae.
The Painted Chair, a new café and art gallery located in the heart of the Kyungsung University area, has been serving up coffee and displaying art since its opening about three months ago.
“Cindy” Kim Nuri, the café and art gallery owner, saw the need for more open art galleries in Busan, and decided she would help to fill the void.
“I was hungry for this artistic place in Korea,” she says. “I didn’t major in art, and I am not an artist, but I can read and see the paintings, and I have a (artistic) language.”
The building that houses The Painted Chair has two separate floors for its café and its art gallery. The café, where customers can drink coffee, smoothies, tea or beer and dine on American-style brunch or pastries, is on the first floor and the gallery itself is located on the second floor.
The room of the gallery is an open and bright space that has the works of whatever artist is showing at the time displayed on the walls. There is also an impressive collection of wooden tables and chairs on both floors, so that gallery visitors can can also sit and drink while admiring the paintings.
The furniture, which includes some practical pieces to sit on and some less practical pieces hanging from the ceiling, are designed by Kim’s friend and work colleague at the cafe, “Image” Lee Miji, who is a woodworker by trade.
“It was easy for me to open this place because my friend knew how to make furniture,” says Kim.
Kim’s education in the arts was obtained the old school way, by spending countless hours in museums all over the world. But after many years traveling the globe and completing a brief stint in fashion design school in Italy, Kim had to give up her dreams of studying art and come back to Korea.
Like many English speakers in Busan, she found work at a local English hagwon. While she was working there, she met some local artists by chance.
“I didn’t know many artists in Korea, so I asked some people if they knew any foreign artists who draw pictures or make paintings.”
One of these artists was American Jarod Timmerman, who is currently showing his abstract paintings at the Painted Chair gallery until November. The paintings are cut with a palette knife and the colors, which are bright and dark and sometimes in stark contrast with each other, are rubbed off to create an ordered, yet chaotic design.
Timmerman has displayed his work at bars and cafes around Busan, but has never had an official art gallery show here.
“This is definitely the best space I have ever shown my art in,” he said.
Like Timmerman, many of the artists Kim met were creating art as a hobby, and Kim wanted to showcase their works for the public to see. She says that it’s hard for foreign artists to deal with Korean galleries because they may not speak the language, and the artists may hesitate to sign contracts they don’t understand.
Jarod Timmerman alongside some of his paintings on display at The Painted Chair
As well, she says that Korean art galleries have a different perspective and are more concerned with art history and the artist’s name, while they also may be more selective about what they choose to display.
Kim has given foreign artists another, more viable option. She displays their work at the café gallery and introduces the artists to a local gallery curator, who will potentially select some of their works to be displayed in international art fairs around Asia.
“This place is going to be like a bridge,” she says of her gallery cafe.
With a lack of spaces for foreign artists to display their art, The Painted Chair may just be the ideal spot for expat artists to show their work off while in Korea.
“This place is better for foreign artists,” she says. “If the art is nice, if the schedule fits, and the artist likes the place, then you can hang it here,” she said.
To get there: Take a left outside the exit of Kyungsung subway station and walk three blocks. Turn right at the third street. The café is located on the right side of the street and has a large yellow sign.