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 Nam June Paik  (1932 - 2006)

/ PIK/
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Lived/Active: New York/Florida / South Korea      Known for: video artist-sculptor, installation

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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Born in Seoul, South Korea, Nam June Paik became the pioneer of video art* in the United States.  He coined the phrase "electronic superhighway", and with his work, demonstrated how artists could use the medium of television creatively.  Part of his innovation was building a video synthesizer that allows video images to be reshaped and altered with color.  In this and other ways, he expanded "the traditional definitions of art-making . . . while simultaneously initiating and influencing creative developments in the technical realms of television editing and image making" (ARTNews 5/99).

In spite of a stroke suffered in 1997, he continued to work and focused on laser installations, which were featured in a 2000 retrospective at the Solomon R Guggenheim Museum in New York.  ARTNews magazine, May 1999, featured him as one of the top 25 most influential western artists.

He first began thinking about video as an art form in 1959, when he wrote about the idea in a letter to performance* artist John Cage.  Meeting Cage in Germany shortly after was the turning point in Paik's life.  Cage performed, at that time, by smashing a violin in a work called One for Violin.

Paik was trained in philosophy and music at the University of Munich and then the conservatory in Freiburg.  In 1961, he became involved with the Fluxus* movement and then he and a friend began to experiment with television, learning the technical aspects as well as exploring the artistic.  His first show was in 1963 at the Galerie Parnass in Wuppertal, Germany.

His wife of more than thirty years was Shigeko Kubota, a video artist whom he credits for many creative ideas including the waterfall at his Guggenheim retrospective.

In 1996, Paik suffered a stroke but remained active, continuing to draw and develop new sculptures and conceptual works from his New York studio.  On January 29, 2006, Nam June Paik died in his home in Miami Beach, Florida, survived by his wife. 

In 2009, representatives of his estate chose the Smithsonian Art Museum as the Paik archival repository.  There a Paik Center is being established for scholars and artists to convey "the tangible sense of the artist's hand in transforming video and television into an artist's medium." (Vogel)  The archive includes Paik's early writings on art history, correspondance, the complete set of video tapes, production notes, sketches and notebooks, early model television sets, hand-drawn plans for his video synthesizer, and objects from his SoHo studio such as toys, folk sculpture and the desk where he did paintings.

ARTnews, May 1999
John Hanhardt, "Nam June Paik, 1932-2006", Art in America, April 2006, p. 39.
Carol Vogel, "Inside Art", The New York Times, 5/1/2009, p. C24

* For more in-depth information about these terms and others, see Glossary

Biography from
Nam-June Paik was born in Seoul, Korea in 1932 and is now an American citizen. Paik has been a central figure in avant-garde art throughout his career, and his innovative work in the fields of video art, performance art, installation art, satellite transmission, painting and music composition has had a profound influence on contemporary art.

After his family fled Korea in 1950, he studied philosophy, history and music in Tokyo, moving to Germany to study music theory at the University in Munich and the Freiburg conservatory, where he discovered electronic music and met the composer Karlheinz Stockhausen, who became one of his major teachers.

Paik's first solo exhibition, in Wuppertal, Germany in 1963, introduced his "adapted" television sets and launched a new era in 20th century art.  His work incorporating art and technology soon made him a major international artist.  Paik's recent work is a series of monumental video installations.

For the 1988 Seoul Olympics, he created the tower The More the Better, an installation comprising 1003 video monitors. Fin de Siécle II (1989) shown at New York's Whitney Museum as part of an exhibition on art and media culture, used a wall of monitors to present popular culture.  At the 1993 Venice Biennial, where he represented Germany, Paik's installation Electronic Super Highway received the prize for best pavillion.  Another recent monumental work, Megatron, a video wall of more than 200 monitors, was shown in 1997 at the Guggenheim Museum-Soho in New York.

Biography from Butler Institute of American Art:
A fuller resume from the Carl Solway Gallery.

Exhibits (solo)

1963 : Exposition of Music-Electronic Televison at Galerie Parnass, Wuppertal

1965 : J Paik : Electronic TV, Color TV Experiments, 3 Robots, 2 Zen Boxes and Zen Can at New School for Social Research

1965 : Electronic Art at Galeria Bonino

1967 : Nam June Paik at Stony Brook Art Gallery, SUNY

1968 : Electronic Art II at Galeria Bonino

1971 : Hit and Run Screening of Video Films (in collaboration with Jud Yalkut) at Rizzoli Screening Room

1971 : Electronic Art III at Galeria Bonino

1971 : Video Film Concert (in collaboration with Jud Yalkut) at Millennium Film Workshop

1971 : Cineprobe (in collaboration with Jud Yalkut) at the Museum of Modern Art

1974 : Electronic Art IV at Galeria Bonino

1974 : Nam June Paik : Video 'n' Videology at Everson Museum of Art

1975 : Nam June Paik at Gallery REne Block

1975 : Fish on the Sky - Fish hardly flies anymore on the Sky - Let Fishes fly again at Martha Jackson Gallery

1976 : Fish Flies on the Sky at Galeria Bonino

1976 : Moon is the oldest TV at Gallery Rene Block

1976 : Nam June Paik : Werke 1946-1976, Music-Fluxus-Video at Kolnischer Kunverein in Cologne

1976 : Video Film Concert (in collaboration with Jud Yalkut) at the Kitchen

1977 : Fluxus Traffic at Galerie Rene Block in West Berlin

1977 : Nam June Paik at Galerie Marika in Malacorda, Geneva

1977 : Projects Nam June Paik at Museum of Modern Art

1978 : A Tribute to John Cage at Gallery Watari in Tokyo

1978 : TV Garden at Musee d' Art Moderne, Paris

1978 : Nam June Paik at Musee d'Art Moderne, Paris

1980 : Nam June Paik at the Whitney Museum of American Art

1980 : Videa at Gallery Watari, Tokyo

1980 : Laser video (with Horst Baumann, assisted by Peter Kolb) at Stadtische Kunsthalle, Dusseldorf.

1981 : Program of Video Tapes at Sony Hall in Tokyo

1981 : Random Access / paper TV at Gallery Watari, Tokyo

1981 : Laser Video (with Horst Baumann) at Die Nutzliche Kunte in West Berlin

1982 : Nam June Paik at Whitney Museum of American Art

1982 : Tri-Colour Video at Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris

1984 : Mostly Video at Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum

1984 : Tribute to Marshall McLuhan at Galerie Esperanza in Montreal

1985 : Nam June Paik : Family of Robot at Carl Solway Gallery in Cincinnati

1986 : Nam June Paik : Sculpture, Painting and Laser Photography at Holly Solomon Gallery

1988 : Nam June Paik : Beuys and Bogie at Dorothy Goldeen Gallery, Los Angeles

1988 : Nam June Paik : Color Bar Paintings at Holly Solomon Gallery

1988 : Name June Paik : Family of Robot at The Hayward Gallery in London

1989 : La Fee Electronique at Musee d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris

1989 : Image World : Art and Media Culture at Whitney Museum

1990 : Video Arbor (Public Sculpture) at Forest City Residential Development in Philadelphia Benjamin Franklin at the Franklin Institute

1991 : Nam June Paik Retrospective at Kunsthaus Zurich in Switzerland

1991 : Kaiserring Prize at Monchehaus Museum

1992 : Nam June Paik : Retrospective at Museum des 20 in Wein, Austria

1992 : Public Art Commission at Chase Manhattan Bank

1992 : Public Art commission at city of Phoenix

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Nam Paik is also mentioned in these AskART essays:

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