The Statue of ...
Project info

Past / Present: Coexisting Realities

Anne Wilkes Tucker

The Gus and Lyndall Wortham Curator of Photography
at The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston.

Han Sungpil has photographed the popular trend in Korea of placing a replica of the Statue of Liberty on top or in front of motels. He repeatedly photographed facsimiles of the famous sculpture in Korea and began to seek out reproductions in other countries.
His photographs minimize the differences in the scale, delicacy of features, and settings as much as possible, and the pictures are often close enough to confuse the casually observant viewer. While Han would not agree that “it seems meaningless to distinguish real from fake,” he has become fascinated with the issues raised by such distinctions. Besides his series The Statue of …, he has also created an ongoing diptych series about The eiffel towerS and its legion of imitators.
He explains that his purpose for these series is two folds, First, I wanted to see how the public perceives when I juxtapose photographs of the real with those of the fake…. Secondly, I wanted to discuss the issue of originality.”
Between 2004 and 2008, he also sought further instances that question originality by photographing the European custom of covering the facades of buildings under construction with life-size Trompe-l'œil renderings of the building on canvas, so that the site seems to blend with neighboring structures. Han has photographed throughout Europe and Asia to bring depth to each of these series. The picture shown here of a replica “Statue of Liberty” is not a candidate for the diptych series because the statue’s true scale is revealed by the neighboring building and the particularly garish lighting destroys any illusion of its being the original.

“Past / Present: Coexisting Realities” from the book of “Chaotic Harmony: Contemporary Korean Photography” (Page 25-26) / Written by Anne Wilkes Tucker (The Gus and Lyndall Wortham Curator of Photography at The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston.)

Catalogue for the exhibition Chaotic Harmony: Contemporary Korean Photography at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, October 18, 2009 – January 3, 2010, and at the Santa Barbara Museum of Art, May 16, 2010-August 21, 2010 (Published by Yale University Press, 2009, ISBN 9780300157536)

Artist Statment

For the past 120 years, the first sight that caught the immigrants, hoping for the American Dream, when they arrived into the New York harbor was the 45m tall majestic Statue of Liberty. The statue of Liberty represented freedom, happiness and a promise to a bright future for these immigrants who travelled a long journey. To celebrate the Independence of United States of America, the Statue of Liberty was presented from France and is a symbol of the United States as a country of freedom, country of immigration or even meaning the freedom and liberation from oppression. It has now become the American icon.

The size reduced statue of Liberty is created and placed on top or in front Love motels in Korean cities to attract people passing by. As the real Statue of Liberty in New York acts as a landmark leading and welcoming the arrivals into the New York harbor, the Statue of Liberty standing on the roofs of these Love Motels could be acting as a lighthouse for the travelers searching for a place to stay a night or for intimate couples.

The key question for this project is as follows. After the invention of photography, the problem on the replication and source of photo still remains intensely and doesn't seem to narrow down. Through this work we throw a question about the picture's own replication and the replication of the object itself. In other word, this project is about the comparison between the original and the copies of the statue of Liberty when the images of copies are perfectly reproduced from copyable picture.

The photography of the Statue of Liberty existing in various places could be a reproduction of a reproduction at the same time as opposed to an independent source of work.