Skin has become inadequate in interfacing with reality. Technology has become the body’s new membrane of existence.
—Nam June Paik
Nam June Paik (1932–2006) brought the television to fine art, treating it as a tactile and multisensory medium and object. Trained as a classical pianist, he came into contact with protagonists of the counterculture and avant-garde movements of the 1960s through his early interests in composition and performance, and this engagement profoundly shaped his outlook at a time when electronic images were becoming increasingly present in everyday life. His groundbreaking work is considered seminal to the development of video art.
Born in Seoul, Paik fled with his family in 1950 to escape the Korean War, traveling first to Hong Kong and then to Japan. After graduating from the University of Tokyo in 1956, he moved to West Germany to continue his studies. There he met the composers Karlheinz Stockhausen and John Cage, as well as the conceptual artists George Maciunas and Joseph Beuys, all of whom deeply affected his thoughts on performance. He joined the Fluxus group in 1962 and moved from the manual manipulation of audiotapes to experimenting with television sets and their screens. Two years later, by this time living in New York, Paik met the cellist Charlotte Moorman, a central figure of the city’s avant-garde, and the two began a collaboration that would last until her death in 1991. Paik created many of his most well-known works for Moorman, including TV Bra for Living Sculpture (1969) and TV-Cello (1971).
Prior to moving to the United States, Paik had met the engineer Shuya Abe, who would also become a longtime collaborator as well as his assistant. Abe helped Paik make his first robot, Robot K-456, in 1964. Composed of metal fragments, fabric, a data recorder, and a loudspeaker that plays recordings of speeches by John F. Kennedy, Robot K-456 captures Paik’s interest in merging popular media and technology with human traits; possessing abstracted breasts and penis, it moves on wheels and is programmed to periodically defecate beans. Paik showed this remote-controlled robot in several exhibitions and performances in New York throughout the 1960s. In 1982, during his first major museum exhibition at the Whitney Museum of American Art, he took Robot K-456 out into the street to orchestrate an “accident”: the robot walked down Madison Avenue and was hit by a car as it attempted to cross 75th Street. For Paik, this spectacle represented a “catastrophe of technology in the twentieth century.”
Alongside his robotic works, Paik maintained a dynamic drawing practice, both in works on paper and in multimedia sculptures and installations. His modified television sets, in particular, combine the moving image with the free, expressive gesture of abstraction; using brightly colored markers, paints, and other materials, Paik would add expressive layers to the screens. Lion (2005), a monumental assemblage comprising twenty-eight television screens and a hand-painted guardian lion sculpture framed within a wooden arch, displays fast-paced montages of flowers, animals, and fish, as well as footage of lions and Merce Cunningham dancing. Lion is emblematic of Paik’s late style, in which he often reflected upon the many artists and performers who influenced his oeuvre.
Extended through September 17, 2016
A group exhibition of text-based works
June 1–September 17, 2016
rue de Ponthieu, Paris
Reading Nam June Paik
Earlier this year, MIT Press released We Are in Open Circuits: Writings by Nam June Paik. Here Gregory Zinman, coeditor of the book along with John Hanhardt and Edith Decker-Phillips, writes about his first exposure to the artist’s archives, the discoveries made there, and the relationship between Paik’s writings and his larger practice.
Gagosian Quarterly Winter 2019
The Winter 2019 issue of Gagosian Quarterly is now available, featuring a selection from Christopher Wool’s Westtexaspsychosculpture series on its cover.
Time by Dance by Paik
Gillian Jakab considers the role of choreography in Nam June Paik’s 1989 video installation Fin de Siècle II.
Life and Technology: The Binary of Nam June Paik
Alexander Wolf explores the intersection of life and technology as it exists in the work of Nam June Paik, revealing the artist’s ability to balance technological concerns with humanity through music, performance, expressive painting, and images from nature.
Art Basel Hong Kong 2021
May 21–23, 2021, booth 1d30
Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre
Gagosian is pleased to participate in Art Basel Hong Kong with a presentation of modern and contemporary painting and sculpture by gallery artists. New paintings by Georg Baselitz, Alex Israel, Ed Ruscha, and Sarah Sze are featured alongside exceptional works in a range of mediums by Louise Bonnet, Theaster Gates, Henry Moore, Nam June Paik, and others, uncovering formal and conceptual innovations and associations that span genres and aesthetic approaches.
Georg Baselitz, Noch ein Orangenesser, 2020 © Georg Baselitz
Nam June Paik
May 1–31, 2021
Gagosian is pleased to participate in a special presentation on 8-bridges in celebration of Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month. Three sculptures and one drawing by Nam June Paik are featured in anticipation of the artist’s major retrospective at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, opening May 8. In these works, Paik uses paper and TV screens interchangeably as surfaces for gestural improvisation. Dating from the last decade of the artist’s life, they embody his playful and predictive conflations of tech and mass communication with images from nature and spontaneous mark making.
Nam June Paik in Miami, c. 1990. Photo: Brian Smith
Art Basel OVR: Pioneers
Innovate, Originate, Overturn: Modern and Contemporary Pioneers
March 24–27, 2021
One of a hundred selected galleries, Gagosian is pleased to present Innovate, Originate, Overturn: Modern and Contemporary Pioneers, an exclusive online project for Art Basel’s launch of OVR: Pioneers. The presentation will include works by Helen Frankenthaler, Theaster Gates, Andreas Gursky, Damien Hirst, Jeff Koons, Nam June Paik, and Rachel Whiteread.
Theaster Gates, American Tapestry, 2019 © Theaster Gates
Nam June Paik
May 8–October 3, 2021
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art
This major exhibition brings together more than two hundred works from throughout Nam June Paik’s five-decade career—from robots made from old TV screens, to his innovative video works, and all-encompassing room-size installations. The exhibition looks at his close collaborations with Joseph Beuys, John Cage, Merce Cunningham, Charlotte Moorman, and others. This exhibition originated at the Tate Modern in London.
Nam June Paik, Sistine Chapel, 1993, installation view, Tate Modern, London © Estate of Nam June Paik. Photo: Andrew Dunkley
Arte en sonido hasta 1980
September 23, 2020–March 1, 2021
Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid
This exhibition, whose English title is Disonata: Art in Sound up to 1980, analyzes the development of sound as a creative field of visual arts differentiated from music across the first eighty years of the twentieth century. The show reflects the efforts of artists who resorted to sound beyond its traditional use in such manifestations as mixed-media work, poetry, and theater. Work by Chris Burden and Nam June Paik is included.
Chris Burden, The Atomic Alphabet, 1980 © Chris Burden/Licensed by the Chris Burden Estate and Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
March 22–November 4, 2020
Punta della Dogana, Venice
Conceived and curated by Thomas Houseago, Muna El Fituri, and Caroline Bourgeois, Untitled, 2020 places into dialogue works in a broad range of media by more than sixty artists held by the Pinault Collection, international museums, and private collections. The exhibition centers around a re-creation of Houseago’s studio in Tadao Ando’s cube room, in the heart of Punta della Dogana. Work by Ellen Gallagher, Duane Hanson, Mike Kelley, Henry Moore, and Nam June Paik is included.
Installation view, Untitled, 2020, Punta della Dogana, Venice, March 22–December 13, 2020. Artwork © Thomas Houseago. Photo: Marco Cappelletti/DSL Studio
Nam June Paik
The Future Is Now
March 14–October 4, 2020
Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam
This major exhibition brings together more than two hundred works from throughout Nam June Paik’s five-decade career—from robots made from old TV screens, to his innovative video works, and all-encompassing room-size installations. The exhibition looks at his close collaborations with Joseph Beuys, John Cage, Merce Cunningham, Charlotte Moorman, and others. This exhibition has traveled from the Tate Modern in London.
Nam June Paik, Internet Dream, 1994, installation view, Tate Modern, London © Estate of Nam June Paik