Nam June Paik

Biography of Nam June Paik

Widely considered to be the founder of video art, the South Korean born artist, Nam June Paik, was also an instrumental part of the Fluxus movement.


Born in Seoul in 1932, he and his family were forced to flee South Korea and go to America during the Korean War. After stints in Hong Kong and Japan, he finally ended up in West Germany at Munich University where he studied music. It was during this time that he met artists such as Joseph Beuys and became a leading member of the avant-garde Fluxus movement.


Although Nam June Paik trained as a classical pianist, his radical aesthetic tendencies soon led him to start experimenting with performance and installation art, which often incorporated new technologies such as lasers, robots, and satellite transmissions. As a man he was a fascinating character, who remained a devout Buddhist throughout his life, refraining from ever smoking or drinking.


Nam June Paik is believed to have coined the term “electronic superhighway” to describe the hurtling pace of change through ever advancing modes of communication. In a pioneering performance he made abstract shapes appear on a collection of TVs by using magnets to distort the images. Moving to New York in 1964 he began working with cellist Charlotte Moorman to bring together his performance, video and music work. In 1965 Nam June Paik was the first artist to see the potential of a small portable video camera.


His visionary ideas continue to influence a new generation of artists including the work of Christian Marclay. Esteemed throughout his lifetime, he won the Golden Lion at the Venice Biennale in 1993 having been selected for the German pavilion. Nam June Paik has exhibited in major institutions throughout the world including China Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing in 2009, Tate Liverpool, England in 2010 and The National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. in 2011. In 2007 just after his death in 2006, he was awarded the Order of Cultural Merit in South Korea for his outstanding contribution to contemporary art. 

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