La Ubiquitous Negresse

06 Nov

Matisse was a famous painter of the 20th Century. Many of his paintings have sold for a pretty penny. For example, “Harmony in Yellow” sold for 1,450,000,000 such pennies.

An artist of such proportions is bound to have his work heavily reproduced and these reproductions can show up in some strange places.

Now it’s not too common to see art in the apartments of Seoul. However, there is one, special painting that adorns the walls and comes implanted in many of the officetels in the city.

The painting: “La Negresse”, one of Matisse’s later works (and not necessarily one of his most popular pieces).

The place: My fuse box

This painting was also masking the fuse box at my last apartment and could be found in the main lobby of my former place of employment.

I have no problem with La Negresse. It’s colorful, surely better than the plain metallic covering I’ve had on fuse boxes in America. Beyond that, it contains something you don’t see every day in Korea: a black person. (Unless you yourself are black and in Korea.) It’s pretty safe to say there are more reproductions of this painting in Korea than there are actual black people. In my apartment building alone there are close to 300 apartments, each containing a reproduction of this painting on its fuse box.

There are some black teachers and baseball/basketball players, students and members of the army, but the majority of black people in Seoul come from Nigeria, and sell cheap goods of all sorts on the streets in Itaewon, i.e. foreigner central. Some people have cited Koreans as racist, and while there are racist Koreans, as there are doubtless racists of any race, I don’t feel it is the norm. Although I am suddenly remembering some monkey dances my elementary kids were doing when we talked about Africa. Shit!

Oh wait a minute, Koreans love black people. If you don’t believe it just watch this:

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Posted by on November 6, 2007 in Seoul Days


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