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Model Sang Woo Kim deals with cultural duality through art

Jan Tomes
January 13, 2017

Sang Woo Kim is one of the most sought-after male models, but fashion is just his side project. With DW, he talked about moments from his life that resulted in his debut art exhibition that opens on January 13 in Berlin.

Artist Sang Woo Kim at his exhibition at the Magic Beans gallery in Berlin
Image: Martin Peterdamm

Sang Woo Kim is recognized for his work as a British-Korean model. It would be difficult to avoid the label: He's walked the runway for Vivienne Westwood, Dolce & Gabbana, or Dries Van Noten. Brands such as Diesel, DKNY, or Armani have contracted him to headline seasonal campaigns. He has also appeared in editorials for Vogue, GQ, ELLE, and other glossy and independent fashion magazines.

But he is trying to tone down this publicized aspect of his work with his debut art exhibition in a Berlin gallery Magic Beans. After all, he considers his current career to be just a facade, and as he says, he's done with cover-ups. "I've had to deal with them all my life. I was the only Korean boy in an all-boy British school, so I tried to blend in, but, naturally, I had to deal with racism at school and cultural duality at home since my parents had lived all their lives in Korea," he told DW.

Artist Sang Woo Kim at the Magic Beans gallery in Berlin
Artist Sang Woo Kim at the Magic Beans gallery in BerlinImage: Martin Peterdamm

Sang is not even shy to admit that his career in fashion, no matter how successful, was just another pragmatic decision: the young artist started modeling for his peers from the fashion department at Central Saint Martins, where he studied fine art, because he saw an opportunity to make money for his painting.

"I don't want to complain, however. In a sense, it's been a golden ticket, an opportunity given to me, not one that I created. But art is my real passion. After all, with all the achievements I've had as a model, I could have easily given up art already."

The whole exhibition experience has also allowed him to change the role he is used to, switching from an object to the commanding position usually held by stylists and photographers when he is modeling.

Needless to say, the exhibition is a very personal project linked to both Sang's past and future. "I never felt my art to be as authentic as it is now," he says walking through the gallery halls. "Before, I felt like I was almost designing my art."

The exhibition "Sang Woo Kim: If you see me now you don't" runs from January 13 to February 12 2017 in the Magic Beans gallery in Berlin.