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I’m a Ninja! Trick Art in Seoul

Wanna be a wall-climbing ninja, shoot yourself out of a cannon, or spar with a kangaroo? Well, it’s all possible at one of Korea’s trick art museums.

These optical illusion museums are not new here. In fact, I’ve seen many an eye-bending photo floating around the internet for quite a few years now. Using the centuries old trompe l’oeil art technique, these museums “deceive the eye,” and allow you to become part of a 2 dimensional painting, that appears 3D.

I admit that I was a wee bit curious about inserting myself into one of these clever mirages, but had discounted the museum as being over-touristy, gimmicky and more than a little silly. It wasn’t until, Shirley, a friend from Hong Kong, stopped into Seoul for a few days and insisted we visit, that I made it into one.

It turns out that trick eye museums aren’t just a Korean thing anymore. They’ve now expanded into Singapore, China, Vietnam and Thailand, with the first European location planned for Istanbul, Turkey. Shirley informed me that Hong Kong’s trick art museum was so popular, that it was impossible to get a clear shot without someone else’s body parts in the photo. Kinda defeats the whole purpose of an optical illusion if you ask me…

So what did I think? Well, the museum is silly and gimmicky, but it also happens to be ridiculously fun, strangely exhausting and kind of complicated. How so? Trick art plays not just with paint, but also with perspectives, and there were a few illusions that we just couldn’t get right. Even though there were example photos and specified zones for getting the best shot, we ended up rolling around on the floor for about 20 minutes trying different angles to no avail.

See? Fun, exhausting and kinda complicated. πŸ˜‰

Tips for Visiting a Trick Art Museum

The ideal number of people to visit with is 3 or more
I say 3, because there are a few exhibits designed for a pair of people, and you need a third to take the photo. There are staff around to take pictures for you if required, but it’s much more fun with people you already know.

Incidently, if you’re traveling alone and desperate for some optical illusion pics of your own, it’s still possible to visit. While we were there, a staff member was escorting a single visitor around the entire museum and taking photos for her.

Wear comfortable clothing
Some of the most interesting illusions require you to position yourself on the floor. Wanna look like a wall climbing samurai? Not gonna happen in a skintight mini dress and stilettos.

Visit before 5PM
We visited the Ssamzigil branch of the Alive Museum in touristy Insadong on a Friday, around 4:00 and aside from 3 or 4 other groups, we pretty much had the whole museum to ourselves. By 5:00 though, the museum started to fill up and it became a lot harder to take effective photos.

If there are 2 of you, you’ll need about 2 hours to get through the entire museum properly.

Where to Visit a Trick Art Museum

The Alive Museum has locations in Seoul, Paju, Yeosu, Daecheon and Jeju, as well as multiple international locations. The Main branch is in Insadong. More information can be found HERE.

The Trickeye Museum has locations in Seoul, Busan, Jeju, Singapore and China. It’s main branch is in Hongdae. More information can be found HERE.

Have you visited a trick art museum in your country? Do you have pics? Share your links in the comments below. We’d love to see them!

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28 Comments Post a comment
  1. Jen #

    One of my good friends was just there (she teaches in Seoul)! The museum is BRILLIANT. Obsessed.

    September 23, 2014
    • Istanbul is not too far from Hungary, is it? You could check out the only (for now) European location? πŸ˜‰

      September 23, 2014
      • Jen #

        HA – it might not be “far,” but the plane tickets there and back are a little much on my salary.

        September 24, 2014
  2. Wow! I had no idea about these museums being here. Your pictures are fantastic! I’ll have to try to get to the one here in Busan:-)

    September 23, 2014
  3. Sha #

    Lol, I’ve been to this museum numerous times. When it came to singapore, I did not even want to brave the crowds to try it again. But I would say that it’s great fun and one of the must see places for visitors, in my opinion. With each new travel partner that I bring to seoul, I always put this on the itinerary without fail, even if I’ve already gone through it before…:)

    September 23, 2014
    • Lol…so does that mean you have multiple copies of you in the same optical illusion? πŸ˜‰ I think that the different locates have different paintings – for sure Trickeye vs. Alive Museum are different, so it could actually be “fresh” every time you go. I’m kinda curious to visit Trickeye now actually. Which museum do you visit when you come?

      September 23, 2014
      • Sha #

        Haha…I usually visit the one at hongdae…they have different displays so each time im there, there’s always new ones for me to take photos with…and yes, I do have a few of the same ones but taken during different years…haha…shall we go try it out next next week? πŸ˜‰

        September 23, 2014
  4. So much fun!

    September 23, 2014
  5. Wow. That looks like so much fun. Need to come to Seoul!

    September 23, 2014
    • Your little ninja would love this museum, wouldn’t he?! πŸ˜‰ But have you never visited Korea? Eaten Korean food?? If not, you definitely need to take a trip. πŸ™‚

      September 23, 2014
  6. I’ve never heard of these museums before. They look so fun! I love the picture with samurai.

    September 23, 2014
    • I think they’re a Korean invention, but they’re being franchised right now, so I’m pretty sure they’ll be all over the world soon enough. The samurai photo was my favourite one in the whole museum too. πŸ™‚

      September 23, 2014
  7. We visited the Trickeye museum in Hongdae. Perfect for lousy weather days with kids. (I didn’t know the Insadong museum even though that was my neighbourhood – is it new?) My kids loved it and its a place that suits the Korean (youth) obsession with photo posing! I was lucky enough to be at the museum when a truckload of money was being dumped: http://housebythewater.wordpress.com/2013/02/25/enough-dreaming/

    September 23, 2014
    • The Alive Museum seems to be newer than Trickeye, because all the photos I see are always referred to as trick eye photos, even when they’re taken in Insadong. Brand supremacy perhaps? Haha, I love that photo… if only it would happen to us in real life. I sure could use a truckload of money falling into my hands right about now… πŸ™‚

      September 23, 2014
  8. This is so awesome!!

    September 23, 2014
    • We had a lot of fun there for sure. πŸ™‚ Looking at the photos now – like the penguin one – I can’t believe they were just painted on the wall. Really clever and fun.

      September 23, 2014
  9. This looks like so much fun! I’d never even heard of these museums – I must be so behind the times πŸ˜‰

    September 24, 2014
    • I usually hate being in front of the camera, but this was so much fun, I (almost) forgot about that. πŸ™‚ Haha, I think these museums are a Korean invention, but they’ll soon be all over the world. Istanbul as the first non-Asian location, and then who knows…?!

      September 24, 2014
  10. This is so cute.. Haha

    September 24, 2014
  11. Sweet as a Picture #

    Very cool!

    September 28, 2014
  12. I’ve been dying to be in a trick museum. They had one in a mall in Okinawa, but I missed it.
    Those trickeries are insanely creative. So so cool!!! And the positions, wow. Puzzler, too.

    September 30, 2014
    • You’d have a lot of fun in there! They’re building one in Istanbul now, so I’m sure it’ll be all over the world soon enough. Maybe even in Greece!

      October 2, 2014

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