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April/May 2023

23.04.23 - 21.05.23

Mustard-yellow and wine-red boxes pile up, harboring shiny gold cargo

inside, the precious commodity of divination. What is happiness? Is it

found enclosed in crispy pastries? Hope lies stored in the boxes, baked

into biscuits, waiting on printed slips of paper as a sweet promise.

Those who excitedly crackle the wrapping between their fingers, break

the cookie, can feel them on their tongues even before the message unfolds,

the sticky words of wisdom and prophecy that supposedly lead to

the truth. They are boxes with diamonds in their names, with the company name "Diamond" in capitals. Printed dragons guard the freshly baked goods and, together with a golden shell, convey a sense of value where there is none. Where the fortune cookies originally came from has not been

conclusively determined. However, they were probably invented by

Japanese immigrants in the early 20th century and established in California.

Contrary to popular belief, the sweet pastry was first exported to

China in the 1990s, where it was previously completely unknown, even

though Asians today regard the American export product as part

of their traditional culture.


In the windowed glass architecture of the Palace, however, the cookies

do not pile up as a mountain of golden treasures or lie cracked open at

the bottom, but are still packed in transport crates.The impression of

warehouses of large grocery stores is created, intensified by surveillance

mirrors, as if they were helping with the loading and unloading. Seen

from a distance, the work at Palace initially appears as a three-dimensional

image, the mirrors sweeping hidden truths to light, as in paintings

by the Old Masters. From any location, they turn the installation into an

all-viewing, almost cubist-looking work of art, which lies as if enclosed

in a showcase or seems detached when placed in public space.

"OPEN HERE" is written in capital letters on a pre-stamped flap. It is a

signpost for opening the packages, a gateway to the treasure hidden in

the dark.The architecture of the Palace is also open, allowing people

to look in around the clock and yet creating invisible barriers as glass

walls for the curious. At the same time, the boxes inside are visible and

yet closed.The metallic packaging of the fortune cookies is distantly

reminiscent of the texture of emergency blankets, which were already

used in an exhibition by artist Sangchul Lee in Seoul in 2017. Stacked as

cardboard boxes, the packages grow to the given limits as if in a green

house, suggesting AndyWarhol's Brillo boxes, which established a new

kind of realism, transferring everyday consumerism into art. Beyond

romanticized notions, fortune cookies are manufactured in large

quantities on a fully industrial scale, delivered in bulk to restaurants or

retailers, and buyers can choose from various sets of texts.The promise

of happiness becomes a standardized mass product, the epitome of

consumption, and the oracle becomes disenchanted.

Sangchul Lee engages with a wide variety of exhibition sites as he feels

his way into them, observes their characteristics, and maps them with a

watchful eye. He sees structures, patterns, rhythms, sweeps them out of

unconscious perception, hides them from luminous darkness. His art

does not close itself off to the place, but embraces it, expands into it

from within and sensitively takes up architectural conditions. Modular

systems are emerging that are more adaptable to the site, adjusting to

their unique environment. Material and space are thus in a reciprocal relationship, gaining neutrality beyond art as a consumer object. Lee has already dealt with permeable boundaries before, when, on the occasion of his graduation in 2018 as a master student of Franka Hörnschemeyer, he placed construction fences as sculptures in the room or hung transparent fabric pyramidshaped from the ceiling in Düsseldorf's Offraum 8.


All this resembles a game with the curtain, when he makes fabrics visible through glass panels or, on the contrary, concealed underneath. His works are always characterized by a wink of the eye, as soon as a fire extinguisher becomes an art object by means of a mirror or massage balls are hidden

under protective plaster on the wall. Originally from South Korea himself, it was not the allusions to Asian culture that fascinated Lee about fortune cookies, but the box as a kind of "globe of absurdity". Symbols of longing, fantasy, and transcendence are distorted into mysteries on them, reduced to consumption, which indulges in an eternal cycle of desire that is hard to escape. Once caught in the clutches of the system, the ultimate goal is no longer happiness but the maintenance of status. "Diamant, Drache und Glück" conceives the exhibition space as an interface of cultural diversity and hierarchy, emphasizing its openness and also its limits.Who will succeed in breaking out of the glass prison? Who can stand up to dragons, capture diamonds and ultimately find happiness?

Opening: 22.04.22 um 18 Uhr

Artist: Sangchul Lee

Text: Julia Stellmann

Photos: Christian Ahlborn and Jana Buch

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