Nam June Paik: Retrospective

Nam June Paik Watchdog

Nam June Paik “Watchdog”

The artwork and ideas of Nam June Paik were a major influence on late 20th-century art and continue to inspire a new generation of artists. The Nam June Paik Archive was acquired by The Smithsonian American Art Museum from the artist’s estate in 2009. The exhibition ‘Nam June Paik: Global Visionary’ at The Smithsonian offers an unprecedented view into the artist’s creative method. The exhibition features key artworks that convey Paik’s extraordinary accomplishments as well as material drawn from the Nam June Paik Archive.

“The Smithsonian American Art Museum is the international center for the study of Nam June Paik’s enormous achievements,” said Elizabeth Broun, The Margaret and Terry Stent Director of the Smithsonian American Art Museum. “Through acquisition of the artist’s personal archive, we offer an unparalleled window onto the artist’s creative career.”

Nam June Paik, TV Crown 1

Nam June Paik, TV Crown 1, 1965/1998-99, manipulated television with two audio generators, two amplifiers, and heat regulator; color, silent. Photo © The Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, New York.

Korean-born Paik (1932-2006), known as the “father of video art,” almost single-handedly transformed video into an artist’s medium through his sculptures, installations, videotapes and television projects. Paik is recognized worldwide for his innovative, media-based artwork that is grounded in the practices of avant-garde music and performance art. His art and ideas embodied a radical new vision for an art form that he knew would be embraced around the world and that would change visual culture.

Nam June Paik, 'Beuys' Voice'

Nam June Paik, ‘Beuys’ Voice’ 1990 at James Cohan

“The exhibition will give viewers the opportunity to experience a full portrait of the artist and also recognizes Paik’s desire to astonish through a playful aesthetic,” said Hanhardt. “It will have surprises both for those viewers who have never experienced Paik and for those who feel they know his art.”

The exhibition includes nearly 70 artworks and more than 120 items from the archive. Several rare artworks borrowed from private and public collections in the United States and abroad, including Urmusik (1961) from Museum Moderner Kunst in Vienna, TV Garden (1974) from Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum and Whitney Buddha Complex (1982) from Hessel Museum of Art at Bard College are presented. Paik’s rarely seen installation Moon Projection with E Moon and Birds (1996), on loan from the Paik Estate, is on display. Three exceptional artworks from the museum’s collection are included: (1963/1976), Megatron/Matrix (1995) and Electronic Superhighway: Continental U.S., Alaska, Hawaii (1995).

Retrospective: Nam June Paik

Nam June Paik, Megatron/Matrix, 1995, eight-channel video installation with custom electronics, color, sound, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Museum purchase made possible by Mr. and Mrs. Barney A. Ebsworth, Nelson C. White, and the Luisita L. and Franz H. Denghausen Endowment.

Nam June Paik: Global Visionary offers the extraordinary range of the artist’s accomplishments and the complexity of his ideas. It will feature his personal history through thematic groupings that draw on the resources of the Nam June Paik Archive. Paik’s writings and the materials he collected reveal the influences of Asian and Western philosophy, as well as developments in technology and science. The museum will use these materials to show the development of his innovative and radical conceptualization of the future roles of communication technologies in the expanding global media culture.

Nam June Paik: Global Visionary, was organized by John G. Hanhardt, senior curator for media arts and leading expert on Paik, with the assistance of Michael Mansfield, associate curator of film and media arts. The exhibition catalog is written by Hanhardt and focuses on Paik’s global journey and multidisciplinary art practice. It will include an introduction by Broun and an essay by the artist’s nephew Ken Hakuta reflecting on his uncle’s life. The book, co-published by the museum and D Giles Limited, will be for sale ($50) in the museum store, through the museum’s website and at bookstores nationwide.

Nam June Paik, Magnet TV,

Nam June Paik, Magnet TV, 1965, television and magnet, black and white, silent, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, purchase, with funds from Dieter Rosenkranz. Photo by Robert E. Mates.

Connecting Online An interactive digital archive will be available online and in the galleries as a research reference for Paik’s art and career. A podcast featuring commentary by Hanhardt will be available in December on the museum’s website and through iTunes. Additional content, including a slideshow of selected artworks included in the exhibition with interpretive text and videos, will be available during the exhibition run on the museum’s website,

One of the robots created by Paik “comes to life” on Twitter as @PaikBot. Visitors can follow PaikBot for behind-the-scenes information, interesting facts about Paik and the opportunity to ask questions about the exhibition. The public also may follow the museum for exhibition updates on Facebook at or on Twitter by following @americanart and using #paik. Photographs documenting the installation of the exhibition will be posted to the museum’s photo stream at

Credit Nam June Paik: Global Visionary is organized by the Smithsonian American Art Museum with generous support from Sheila Duignan and Mike Wilkins; Barney A. Ebsworth; Marilou and Ken Hakuta; Maureen and Gene Kim; Korea Foundation; Wendy and Jerry H. Labowitz; Paula and Peter Lunder; Share Fund of The Community Foundation for the National Capital Region; The Starec Trust; Roselyne Chroman Swig; and the Barbara & Howard Wise Endowment for the Arts.

Nam June Paik,  Musée d’Art Moderne de la ville de Paris

Nam June Paik, L’Olympe de Gouges in La fée électronique, 1989, Musée d’Art Moderne de la ville de Paris

Nam June Paik (1932-2006)
“Let’s not be modest about it. I think he created a revolution in art.”

— Yoko Ono

Nam June Paik is one of the most influential artists of his generation who transformed television and video into artists’ media. Paik’s art and ideas embodied a radical new vision for an art form that was embraced around the world and changed global visual culture. Internationally recognized as the “Father of Video Art,” he created a large body of work including video sculptures, installations, performances, videotapes and television productions. He had a global presence and influence, and his innovative art and visionary ideas continue to inspire a new generation of artists.

Born in 1932 in Seoul, Korea, to a wealthy industrial family, Paik and his family fled Korea in 1950 at the outset of the Korean War, first to Hong Kong, then to Japan. Paik graduated from the University of Tokyo in 1956, and then traveled to Germany to pursue his interest in avant-garde music, composition, and performance. There he met John Cage and George Maciunas and became a member of the neo-dada Fluxus movement. In 1963, Paik had his legendary one-artist exhibition at the Galerie Parnass in Wuppertal, Germany, that featured his prepared television sets, which radically altered the look and content of television.

After immigrating to the United States in 1964, he settled in New York City where he expanded his engagement with video and television, and had exhibitions of his work at the New School, Galerie Bonino, and the Howard Wise Gallery. In 1965, Paik was one of the first artists to use a portable video camcorder. In 1969, he worked with the Japanese engineer Shuya Abe to construct an early video-synthesizer that allowed Paik to combine and manipulate images from different sources. The Paik-Abe video synthesizer transformed electronic moving-image making. Paik invented a new artistic medium with television and video, creating an astonishing range of artworks, from his seminal videotape Global Groove (1973) that broke new ground, to his sculptures TV Buddha (1974) and TV Cello (1971); to installations such as TV Garden (1974), Video Fish (1975), and Fin de Siecle II (1989); videotapes Living with the Living Theatre (1989) and Guadalcanal Requiem (1977/1979); and global satellite television productions such as Good Morning Mr. Orwell, which broadcast from the Centre Pompidou in Paris and a WNET-TV studio in New York City January 1, 1984.

Paik has been the subject of numerous exhibitions, including the major retrospectives Nam June Paik (2010), organized by Tate Liverpool and museum kunst palast, Düsseldorf; The Worlds of Nam June Paik (2000), organized by Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York City; and Nam June Paik (1982) at the Whitney Museum of American Art. He has been featured in major international art exhibitions including Documenta, the Venice Biennale, and the Whitney Biennial. The Nam June Paik Art Center opened in a suburb of Seoul, South Korea, in 2008.

The Smithsonian American Art Museum acquired the artist’s complete estate archive in 2009, making the museum the institution of record for understanding this provocative artist’s profound impact on the art world and for understanding the history of the moving image in 20th-century art. The museum’s collection includes several significant works by Paik on permanent public view, including two of his ambitious and massive video walls Electronic Superhighway: Continental U.S., Alaska, Hawaii (1995), Megatron/Matrix (1995) and an early work called Zen for TV (1963/1976).

Nam June Paik at his video-editing studio

Nam June Paik at his video-editing studio in his home on Mercer Street, New York, 1999. Photo by David Heald © The Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, New York.

Smithsonian American Art Museum
Eighth and F streets N.W.
Washington, D.C.
Main Building
Nam June Paik: Global Visionary
December 13, 2012-August 11, 2013

About Art Selectronic

Art Selectronic is an artist-led initiative, that supports grass-roots contemporary art that remains unswayed by fashion, trends or the whims of government funding. The project involves ongoing research into the placing of contemporary art, it’s audiences and it’s relationship to the everyday. We place great emphasis on context. Our mission is to support new works of contemporary art and foster an audience from a wide range of backgrounds.
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