Oh Jaewoo: Collector’s Choice

Collector’s Choice is an ongoing project by Seoul-based artist Oh Jaewoo which investigates how art is valued and consumed within contemporary culture—while blurring the lines between fact and fiction. Oh starts with the individual collector, often considered to play the final and invisible role in the life of an artwork – when an object made by the artist and sent out into the public realm becomes private property.  

Oh works backwards from this point, making the collector the subject of his practice. Following a period of negotiation, the collector is asked to identify the most important work in their collection. Oh then documents the work in its private setting and interviews the collector, drawing out their motivations and relationship with the work. His exhibitions bring together the art work, the documentation and the interview.  

Collector’s Choice becomes a group show drawn from private collections, but with a twist, or two. Oh curates collectors not objects. The art works on display become stand-ins for the collecting impulse, both of the individual and the culture to which they belong. Oh has previously used this process to open up broader questions around contemporary art in Korea, exploring the role that art plays in an increasingly globalised and commercialised culture subject to complex power dynamics. What may seem like a private act of collecting quickly becomes a very public and potentially politicised gesture. For this iteration of Collector’s Choice, Oh moves his project beyond Korea for the first time, working with three New Zealand collectors.  

So far, so serious. But there is a twist. Oh asks his collectors to identify a work they wished was in their collection, and then makes it for them. His conceptual project becomes an appropriative one, which he has deliver in material terms—in the case of this exhibition having to recreate a famous 1970s feminist video work, and two paintings by contemporary artists that could not be more different in scale and subject. His take on appropriation art carries a subversive edge. The hand of the artist returns to blur the lines between the authentic and the fake, translation and mistranslation, the sincere and the insincere. Collector’s Choice questions whether it is the physical presence of the authentic art object or the fictions and histories we weave around that object that really matter – and if the latter is the case, what are the implications for making, collecting and exhibiting art now?