“The first thing I consider when collecting art is whether the work or the artist is fun,” said Seoul-based collector Noh JaeMyung of the art he and his wife, Park SoHyun, collect together. “The work could be fun because it is pretty, ugly, grotesque, unique, or awkward. To me, great works deliver strong feelings, whether negative or positive.”
Among their collection of more than 200 objects, Noh and Park consider two works, one by David Altmejd and another by Rebecca Ackroyd, to be emblematic of the whole, Noh said, directly illustrating “the true meaning of fun” when it comes to art. Both sculptures seem to inspire a sense of uncomfortableness: Altmejd’s The Portal Architect (2020) is the bust of a man with two columns of discs rising from his skull, while Ackroyd’s Direct Lines (2019) features what appears to be a flayed piece of skin lying on a daybed.
“David creates sculptures that show processes of decay, renewal, and transformation,” Noh said. “It took me quite a long time to look at David’s works, but I slowly got used to them and later got curious about the artist. Then I met Rebecca’s work, and I thought the two would be an amazing pair.”
For Noh and Park, the process of making an artwork and the artist’s intentions is as important as the final result, and that has informed how their world views have changed since they started buying art. “Looking at the works makes me wonder what the artist was thinking and the environment the person lived in,” Noh said. “I step into others’ worlds. I get to understand others better.”
The primary focus of the couple’s collecting is emerging artists, and they are always on the lookout for upstarts “who have the potential to develop their practices.” Among those who have entered the collection are Pam Evelyn, Richard Kennedy, Rachel Jones, and Gisela McDaniel, whose work they bought in June at Art Basel from London gallery Pilar Corrias. It’s been a long time coming, Noh said: “I have known about the artist for a long time and wanted to add her work to my collection.”
Though Noh said others have questioned the couple’s fervor for collecting emerging artists, he has remained steadfast in his role “as a young collector to support and trust young artists who are not established yet. I love to see them change. Artists, especially young artists, develop, expand, and sometimes even get lost. I am more than happy to wait and see the changes.”
A version of this article appears in the 2023 ARTnews Top 200 Collectors issue.