The Castaway Collector of Brooklyn


21ST JUN, 2013


In Boerum Place, Brooklyn, New York lives a man in an apartment with many things. Chong Gon Byun is his name and he arrived in New York City from Korea 25 years ago. Your initial thoughts on Byun might be that he is an obsessive vintage gatherer, a flea market bargain hunter, a hoarder. But a closer look, and you’ll see his ability to sculpt, rearrange, reconnect and rejuvinate castaway and found objects has an unmistakable genius behind it. But before I ramble on, let’s first meet Byun at his Brooklyn apartment…

This beautiful video from This Must be the Place series is brought to you by Lost & Found films.

Naturally, after stumbling across this short documentary, I had to see more of Byun’s work.

I’m not usually one to appreciate abstract art and so often, sculptures made out of vintage bric-a-brac can look disturbing. Byun however, combines and recreates these castaway objects, with all their history and nostalgia, using such artisanal skill, clever wit,  attention to detail, and might I add, good taste.

Byun’s main work consists of painting and assemblage of discarded objects, cast away from our indutrial consumer society.

“Throughout the 5,000 years of history, we Koreans placed much emphases, on living in harmony with nature, and paying respect to the parents and elders,” says Byun. “Whether the items were antique or new, it was customary for the previous generation to hand over those ancestoral objects to the next generation, as a ritual. The objects that were used and are no longer useful, [but] still has its unique history and invaluable story to tell.”

“The clash between post-industrial civilization, and the present capitalist culture, becomes my main theme and casue for concern.” 

“The clash between post-industrial civilization, and the present capitalist culture, becomes my main theme and casue for concern.”

“When I was growing up in Korea, I always noticed a family portrait adorned  by an antique frame, placed at the center with care, where it can be shown with dignity. Those tarnished and yellowing photographs would reveal the amily’s past, leading in the present and even the future. This image became imbedded in my mind.”

See more of Byun’s work here

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