Paris – April 27, 2014
I have directed the Cité de la Musique since 2001 and the Salle Pleyel since 2006. I have been chairman of the board of directors of the Philharmonie de Paris since 2006 as well.
I discovered Ahae’s photographs on the occasion of the exhibition held by the Louvre Museum in 2012. I was immediately struck by the universality of the themes dealt with – the passage of time, its mutations, the contrasts of nature… – and the feeling of quietude emerging from a search for perfection and ascesis: a quietude matured by experience and artisanal know-how.
The same feeling of artistic mastery gripped me later when I attended the inauguration of the exhibition last year at the Palace of Versailles. Having gained more thorough knowledge of Ahae’s art in the meantime through some remarkable books and catalogues retracing his career and reproducing his photographs with infinite care, I was more easily able to apprehend the different temporal spaces that intermingle in his work. I also had occasion to read some very interesting criticisms by specialists at major international periodicals, both French and European, who made the case for his artistic credibility far better than I ever could.
Meanwhile I had become acquainted with Ahae’s son, Keith Yoo. We soon shared musical moments. I also took him on a tour of the construction site of the Philharmonie de Paris, designed by the architect Jean Nouvel and located in the Parc de la Villette near the Cité de la Musique, which unfolds around a large symphony hall and numerous educational spaces. Keith showed great interest in the project, especially the intention of opening up classical music to young people and promoting today’s composers. Our cultural affinity and our closeness with musicians as talented as those of the London Symphony Orchestra led us to imagine that an Ahae exhibition could be held in the Philharmonie’s large public reception galleries and that several concerts in relation to nature and its artistic representations would give rise to a fruitful crossing of themes.
As was the case for the Louvre and Versailles exhibitions, the preparation of the project left nothing to chance. It has gradually taken shape over these past months around a shared desire to identify the most suitable approach, to make the best use of the setting, and to fit into the proposed spaces with harmony. I can bear witness that Keith displayed the utmost artistic exactingness and that his desire always to seek out the most apposite solution comes from a deep honesty and humility with respect to art and the public. These qualities are the foundation that allowed us to establish a relationship of trust.
In this difficult period of communication tied to the terrible drama of the Sewol ferry, I will not express myself on the manner in which Ahae and his art are perceived in South Korea as I am not familiar with that country’s social and cultural realities. On the other hand, certain commentaries emanating from French sources, isolated but relayed via the Internet, have questioned the legitimacy of the two exhibitions at the Louvre and Versailles on the pretext that these initiatives would never have come about without the quid pro quo of patronage by Ahae Press. Behind such accusations one has to read the denunciation of a cultural world that is supposedly complicit with market forces in promoting artists who are intrinsically undeserving.
The truth is quite different and, as is often the case, simpler to understand. I am not a specialist of the plastic arts, but I do have confidence in the judgment of the directors and curators of the Louvre, of the Palace of Versailles and of other similarly prestigious venues in Europe where Ahae’s exhibitions have been held with success. I also give credit to the numerous detailed, well-argued commentaries of the newspapers and press reviews that have favorably reported on his work. This is why the perspective of a partnership between eye and ear, between the works of Ahae and the less tangible ones of the creators of music immediately attracted my interest and I can say today that this project has been a source of stimulation for me over the course of the past few months.
I am proud of the dialogue that I have had with Keith Yoo in these months and I think that South Korea can be proud that an artist like Ahae conveys to the entire world artistic and humanistic values that rest on universal foundations.