Kukje gallery by SO-IL, Korea

Kukje gallery by SO-IL, Korea

Earlier this month, Brooklyn-based architecture practice SO-IL was heaped with praise for a temporary tent erected for New York’s first Frieze Art Fair. The 23,000sq m structure, punctuated with pie-shaped wedges that allowed it to snake along the waterfront at Randall’s Island, certainly earned its recognition.

But a building completed in Seoul a few weeks earlier - and designed to stand a lot longer than the five days of the Frieze tent - deserves rather more. It is the third gallery for Kukje, a pre-eminent contemporary dealership with its own ’art campus’. And it opened with an exhibition of work by Paul McCarthy.

The works of both McCarthy and SO-IL go together well. ’The armour that wraps around our building makes it soft and hard,’ says Florian Idenburg, who cofounded the practice with Jing Liu, ’and there’s something of that in his work too. Edgy and kinky.’ Next up, the gallery will host ’Personages’ (from 23 May), a solo show of the work of Louise Bourgeois.

The SO-IL gallery is the biggest box they could fit onto the small site, with stairs that meander in and out of the building. Concrete, with polished concrete floors, it is clad in a skin of bespoke metal mesh, made in a village in northern China that specialises in working with metal thread. The 500,000 stainless steel rings had to be individually blasted with glass beads to achieve their silvery colour, and then washed at the local carwash. Altogether they weigh more than 4,000 kilos.

’The mesh is important - it makes the building feel lighter and more object-like,’ says Idenburg, who also clad the New Museum in New York (completed in 2007) with a metal carapace when still employed by SANAA. ’When the sun shines and it casts a big shadow, it can look like a silvery cloud.’

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