Seungyong Chang: 
About Modigliani,
his life, his art,
his passion 

Thisyear marks the 100th anniversary of death of Modigliani, an Italian painter and sculptor, famous for his portraits and nudes, asymmetric compositions and elongated figures. Art Gallery 5'14 had a chance to talk about Modigliani with Seungyong Chang, a president of Modigliani Institute Korea, who is dedicated to studying the life of great artist  for decades.

Seminar about art of Mogigliani

- Can you introduce Modigliani Institute Korea?
- Modigliani Institute Korea (MIK) is the Modigliani brand of Art Collage JANG, a specialized organization for researching Amedeo Modigliani in South Korea, which is partnering with Amalart, one of the professional company for Modigliani in Italy.

The main activities of MIK are promote Modigliani's life and works, conduct lectures, seminars and events, publish Korean version of Modigliani’s materials such as papers and documents, publish Modigliani Journal, make an art tour for Modigliani tracing his life from his birthplace to grave, establish Modigliani Museum, etc.

- What motivated you to start such an art project?
- In the meantime, I have made continuous efforts for my beloved painter Modigliani such as publishing books while collecting and studying his materials with constant love and passion for him. In this process, I wanted to study Modigliani in a more in-depth and systematic way and proposed the Modigliani Institute Korea to Amalart having expertise in Modigliani. Amalart accepted my suggestion, and I could launch the Modigliani Institute Korea as a Modigliani brand of Art Collage JANG.

Amedeo Clemente Modigliani

Jeanne Hébuterne

- How and when did you get interested in the art of Modigliani?
- The first time I saw a Modigliani's painting was art class in high school. However, when I first saw the Modigliani's painting, I felt that it was very unique rather than inspiration. Afterwards, I have been teaching art, and especially since 2014, when I founded Art Collage JANG, I am studying and teaching about Modigliani more intensively.

- What moments of his life attract you the most?
- I became more interested in Modigliani by studying overseas documentation about his life. In particular, for his life after moving to Paris in 1906, I was impressed by his passionate artistic activities, his uncompromising attitude toward injustice and reality and his devoted love for Jeanne Hébuterne. This impression gave me a chance to study his paintings more intensively.

- What is the most surprising thing you discovered while working with documentation about Modigliani?
- There are many things that surprised or impressed me while studying Modigliani's documentation, but I’d like to comment a little. First, Modigliani did not compromise with reality and his conviction was very firm. An anecdote when visiting Renoir is also an interesting example. People say that if Modigliani compromised a little with reality, he would not have lived so miserably and died, but I feel so sad for this story. The second is about the story of his alcoholism and drug addiction. At the time, Modigliani was a tuberculosis patient, and the disease had no medicine and it was an infectious disease of fear. Therefore, people avoided patients, but they were generous with alcohol and drugs. Modigliani, who had a strong pride, was afraid that people around him would treat him like that, and took too much alcohol and drugs to hide his illness. Eventually he died at a young age because of them. One more thing I want to say is his love for Jeanne. Modigliani is considered the most handsome artist. Therefore, many women liked him and he also liked women. However, when he met Jeanne in 1917, his life was completely changed, and it was really touching how Modigliani devoted to her when he met his true love. And after Modigliani's death, Jeanne left her young daughter alone and committed suicide with pregnant second child. I shed tears by their great love and tragic story. It feels like a story in a movie, not in reality.

... I was impressed by his passionate artistic activities, his uncompromising attitude toward injustice and reality and his devoted love for Jeanne Hébuterne ...



- There are opinions that show Modigliani is risky, since there are many falsifications. An art expert said, to be three fake Modigliani's around for every real one. What you think? Why is the fake market so big? And why is it with Modigliani paintings particularly difficult to distinguish between an original and a copy?
- Modigliani is also famous for his many fakes as you said. That also means the prices of his paintings are traded very high. One of the reasons for this is due to the legendary stories about his nude paintings, and the stories increased people's fantasies about him. One such example was his first and last solo exhibition at the Berthe Weill Gallery in Paris in 1917. It was forcibly closed by the police as soon as it was open due to the display of nude paintings. It is clear that the story of the exhibition has increased people's fantasies about Modigliani. In addition, Modigliani's paintings are relatively easier to copy than other artists' works, which is one of the reasons for many fakes. And the records and management of his works were also poor after Modigliani died.


... Modigliani is also famous for his many fakes. That also means the prices of his paintings are traded very high ...

 
- This year marks the 100th anniversary of death of Modigliani. By this date you published your new book about the artist. Is it a documentary biography or nonfiction?
- Currently, I continue to write books in art and music, and I have published more than 10 books so far. The main reason why I am writing books is to serve as a messenger for those who are interested in music and art. I also wrote five books related to Modigliani so far. Among them, I wrote a novel for the first time last year, and the title of the book is “Dedo, Modi, Modigliani”. The book is about the life of Modigliani, and I used all his names for the book title. Dedo was his name that the people in his hometown, Livorno, called him. Then after he moved to Paris, people around him called him Modi. I wrote this book to participate in the 2019 Amazon Book Contest. Until then, I wrote my books for the factual contents, but I wrote the novel for the first time with the idea that a book of a novel type would be more appropriate for the contest. This book is a nonfiction biographical novel based on the real life of Modigliani.
 
To date, I have written five books about Modigliani, including the most recent novel “Dedo, Modi, Modigliani”. The first book I wrote for Modigliani is “The Great and Immortal Painters' Stories” series. The title of the book is the same as one of the cultural and art programs I made and lectured. This program was created, recalling when I frequented galleries in the early 1990s. At the time, I felt something lacking in the gallery, because there was no music there. “The Great and Immortal Painters' Stories” introduces selected painter's life, interesting stories, main works and a movie about the painter. At the end of the program, the participants appreciate about a hundred pieces of the artist's works with background music I selected considering the artist’s life and works style. In other words, it is a program combining art, movie and music. I wrote the book based on this program because an owner of a publishing company, who had attended in my lectures for a long time, suggested me to write the book. So I used the program name as the title of my book. This was what happened in 2017, and in 2018 I founded my own publishing company, J Books and Media, where I continue to publish my books. I also published an English version of the book and a catalogue of Modigliani's works. The feature of the catalogue is that the works of Jeanne Hébuterne are included together. In fact, Jeanne was also a talented artist, but when she met Modigliani, her talent was buried in his shadow. Many people do not even know that Jeanne was a painter. With this in mind, I made the catalogue containing Jeanne's works. Another book for Modigliani is “The Interesting Stories about Great Painter’s Paintings”. The previous book is a book focused on Modigliani's life. Therefore, it is difficult to know the stories related to Modigliani's works. This book tells stories about works of Modigliani, which was also based on a lecture program that I had conducted before. Among them, I am selling the English versions of “The Great and Immortal Painters' Stories” and “Dedo, Modi, Modigliani” as ebooks and paper books on Amazon.

- How long does it take you to write a book?
- Many materials used to write books have already been secured and studied. After completing the layout of a new book, I collect and study additional materials necessary for the book. Writing a book usually takes about 6 months.

- Which moment of writing are you enjoying most?
- The happiest moments as a writer when writing a book are when the first order comes after the book is published and I have an author’s signing event at the book concert.

- Where can readers find out more about your books?
- I'm selling other books in English, including Modigliani, on Amazon now.  In addition, I am also selling books in Korea at large bookstores in South Korea.

... The happiest moments as a writer when writing a book are when the first order comes after the book is published and I have an author’s signing event at the book concert ...

- If your book was to be made into a movie, who are the celebrities that would star in it?
- I also intend to make a movie for Modigliani. So far as I know, several movies for Modigliani have been made so far. Since Modigliani was a real figure, I want to make a movie about his life based on the facts. I have not thought of a specific actor to play his role yet.

- Regarding movie, we know that you have an idea to do it. Is it still an idea or have you started to realize it?
- When I wrote Modigliani's biographical novel, Dedo, Modi, Modigliani, I shed tears, especially when I wrote the story from just before his death to burial. While writing this novel, there was a strong desire to make Modigliani's movie based on this novel. But nothing is done just by thinking. While thinking about how to realize my dream, I decided to first discuss my idea with my contacts. I am currently in contact with movie directors around the world, as well as with contacts at large entertainment companies such as Netflix.

- What are your future plans and projects?
- 2020 is the 100th year of Modigliani's death, a very important year. Therefore, I'm planning some projects. One of them is to conduct a digital art exhibition of Modigliani in South Korea, and the other one is making an art tour that follows from the birthplace of Modigliani to his grave, and they are being prepared.

The main project I will start from next year, 2021, is the establishment of the Modigliani Museum. Currently the Modigliani Museum is existed only in Italy. So I want to establish a Modigliani museum in South Korea. Then, my dream is to continue to establish Modigliani museums in other countries. It would be nice if a Modigliani museum will be also established in your country, Slovenia. If so, I will actively help the establishment. And if conditions permit, another project I would like to pursue is to establish a Modigliani Foundation. I want to create a foundation to support talented artists.

Portrait of Jeanne Hebuterne

Jeanne Hebuterne in a hat

Jeanne Hebuterne in a large hat

Self Portrait

Seungyong Chang
Born in 1964 in Seoul, South Korea, he has completed his studies (engineering) at Texas A&M University in The United States of America. He is a president of Art Collage JANG and Modigliani Institute Korea.
He conducted many lectures about music and art at various organizations such as KBS, Korea Contemporary Arts Academy, Seongdong Public Library and Mapo Lifelong Learning Center in Seoul, South Korea.
He is also a writer and president of J Books and Media. He published many books regarding music and art, and his books are also on sale on Amazon. 
For Amedeo Modigliani, he also published articles in Quid Magazine in Italy, Art & Museums Magazine in the UK and UN1K Magazine in France.
He is also working as an art dealer who is selling the artworks of contemporary artists partnering with Art Collage JANG as well as masterpieces by collaboration with worldwide art dealers.

Publication

Fine Art
The Great and Immortal Painters' Stories (1~6)
1. Amedeo Modigliani
2. Claude Monet
3. Vincent van Gogh
4. Paul Gauguin
5. Pablo Picasso
6. Gustav Klimt
7. The Interesting Stories about Great Painters’ Paintings: Amedeo Modigliani
8. Dedo, Modi, Modigliani

Music
1. The Great Rendezvous of Classical Music and Rock
2. Born To Be Blue, Chet Baker Story
3. The Life & Music of Niccolo Paganini, and His Portrayal in Movies & Arts
4. The Life & Music of Frédéric Chopin, and His Portrayal in Movies & Arts

Artworks Catalogues
1. Amedeo Modigliani/Jeanne Hébuterne
2. Vincent van Gogh

Images courtesy of  Seungyong Chang