Moon Shin (Hangul/Hanja: 문신/文信; Born: January 16th 1923 in Takeo City, Saga Prefecture, Japan – Died: May 24th 1995 in Masan District, Changwon City, Southern Gyeongsang Province, Korean Republic) was a South Korean painter and sculptor whose childhood name was Moon Ahn-shin (문안신/文安信). He was a member of Nampyeong Moon Clan (남평 문씨/南平文氏), originated from Nampyeong-eup, Naju City, Southern Jeolla Province where the Assemblyman of Busan Sasang-gu for the 19th Session of the National Assembly of Korean Republic, Timotheus Moon Jae-in originated from the same clan as Moon Shin. Moon was one of 24 artists invited to France for an international exhibition in 1989 to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the French Revolution. One of his pieces can be found in SOMA sculptor park celebrating the 1988 Summer Olympics Seoul.
Born in Takeo, Japan, his family moved to father's hometown, Masan City (Present-day Masan District in Unified Changwon City) in current Southern Gyeongsang Province. Since mother's family never accepted the existence of his father, he had to set apart from her at 5. In need, he worked as a laborer in Tokyo, studying Occidental painting in Nihon Art College since he was 16.
After independence of Korea, he refused to participate in Korean national art exhibition given that the foundation was conservative in his viewpoint. Later, he joined the "Modern art association" of major artists notably such as Yoo Youngguk, Park Go-seok and Han Muk in 1957 before he decided to leave for Paris.
He moved to Paris in 1961 at first. His study in Paris encouraged him to immerse in modern art, which made him get into abstract paintings or sculptures focusing on wood materials. This period is meaningful in that the artist widened his work space in arts.
After a two-year stay in Seoul, he moved to Paris once again. This time he paid attention to large-scale sculptors in abstract and imaginary structures, which called for invitation of several exhibition across Europe. The outdoor exhibition in Le Barcarès brought him international fame starting in Europe.
After coming back to Paris, his pieces achieved unique style in forms of symmetry, such as shapes of plants or creatures to fascinately demonstrate vitality. His pieces represent the beauty of Korean tradition through bilateral symmetry with images of life. Although early pieces during Moon's second term in France didn't have definite titles such as 〈Piece〉·〈Sculptor〉·〈Untitled〉, exact titles started to be presented at later phase. This period provided him with a series of great opportunity to introduce pieces in Italy, Switzerland, Germany and so on.
He earned an international reputation as a creative sculptor with his work "Soleillonautes" at The International Sculpture Symposium held in France in 1970 and continued to hold exhibitions in countries around the world, including France, Germany, Switzerland and Iran. After two decades of living abroad, he finally settled down in his hometown Masan in 1980 and held a series of exhibitions such as 'Europe Tour Exhibition' and 'Moon Shin Retrospective Exhibition'. He was eagerly focusing on sculptors made of bronze, stainless metal. The difference from his anterior period was ingredients: He started to use much thinker materials such as ebony and pine trees.In recognition of his significant contributions to arts, both Korean government and French government awarded him Sejong Culture Award and Order of Arts and Letters (Ordre des Arts et des Lettres) respectively.
His philosophy comes from the idea that all the creatures hold the concept of symmetry and harmony in nature. Strong materials such as iron and metal drove him to accomplish his original objective. His pieces show through patterns of Korean arts from the early 1950s and 1960s to mature abstract paintings until the early 1990s.
Moon Shin's most representative sculpture is the monument called "Olympic-Harmony," which was built to mark the 1988 Seoul Olympics, standing in SOMA Museum Sculpture Park. His lifetime wish of building his own museum in his hometown of Masan finally came true in 1994. Unfortunately, he passed away the next year after a long battle with a gastric cancer. Moon Shin was posthumously awarded the Geum-gwan Medal, Korea's Highest Order of Cultural Merit. His works have been displayed at Moon Shin museums in Masan and Sookmyung Women's University.
The French government honored Moon by celebrating his artwork to enhance interchange relationship between Korean and French modern art. Notably, his works were invited to several exhibitions: invitation exhibition of Paris art center in 1990; Hungarian Natural History Museum in 1991; retrospective exhibition in Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris (1992).
Moon Shin built his unique career through sculptures, paintings and drawings. His artworks are reminiscent of natural objects such as insects, birds and flowers though they are represented in abstract arts consisted of geometric curves, circles, and semicircle. This is because his works include minute imbalance, dissymmetry or bilateral symmetry of nature. Paradoxically, the asymmetric symmetry shows harmony as the both different sides take after becoming one. Eventually, his works lead us to the inner side of human being and the universe by telling the origin of life and the unknown world.
About his museum: Moon Shin Municipal Art Museum at Changwon
Moonshin Art Museum (Hanja: 文信美術館) opened on the land of 8,265 square meters at 147 Moon Shin Street/MoonShin-gil, Chusan-dong 51-1 beonji, Changwon MasanHappo-gu, Southern Gyeongsang Province in 1994, in order to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Moon Shin's art career. Sculptor Moon Shin (1923-1995) returned his hometown, Masan in 1980, after spending 20 years in France. Choi Sung-sook, wife of the late Moon, donated the museum to Masan City in June 2003, following his will that “I want to dedicate my museum to my loving home town.”
Upon returning home in 1980, Moon started to build the museum with hard ebony and pine trees, which were main materials for his sculpture works, and completed it in 1994, about 15 years after the launch. During the period, he presented his works to some 10 international exhibitions as a guest artist and held several retrospective exhibitions, which made him more acclaimed on the international sculpture arena.
The fee is only 500 won to get into the Moonshin Art Museum. Also attached to the museum is the City of Masan Museum, a historical museum dealing mostly with Masan`s unique history. If you want to see more of Masan`s art culture, be sure to check out Sculpture Park.