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Chapter 56 - The Mysterious Art Museum

A street artist's life changed when he ended up at a mysterious art museum. DBT,Korean,Novel,Translation,Art,Artist,Slice of life,Poor to Rich,Mystery

Honor is More Valuable Than Wealth (5)

Anger, absurdity, irritation.

A multitude of displeased emotions surface on Director Park's face.

How dare they paint a cartoon on this opulent theater's ceiling. And it's a Japanese cartoon at that.

Though the South Korean public might have fond memories of cartoons from childhood, surely someone will complain about it being a remnant of Japanese culture.

Director Park glares at Min-young, who is standing back.

"Director Yoo. I heard you spent 300 million won on this project."

Min-young silently looks at Jung-hoon. Following her gaze, Director Park, with his arms crossed, says,

"An explanation is required. Depending on your excuse, we might consider terminating the contract. How dare you paint a cartoon, and a Japanese one at that?"

Spending 300 million to paint a cartoon scene on the ceiling. This isn't for VIPs, nor is it for the masses. Surely Min-young wouldn't think to change this glamorous theater into one for children's plays.

What could they be thinking?

Jung-hoon steps forward under the harsh gaze.

"'A Dog of Flanders' isn't a Japanese cartoon but a children's novel written by the English author Ouida. The original title is 'A Dog of Flanders and Other stories.'"

So what? Director Park's face seems to ask.

The public remembers what's familiar. Most would recall it as just a cartoon.

Jung-hoon continues,

"In this story, the protagonist Nello is a boy living with his poor grandfather, dreaming of becoming a painter. Nello rescues an abandoned dog, Patrasche, and they start delivering milk."

Well-known content.

Having received an elite education doesn't mean one didn't grow up watching cartoons.

Jung-hoon adds,

"Nello loses his sick grandfather, gets kicked out of their home, and his dream is to see Rubens' painting hidden behind a thick church curtain. But it was an impossible dream for the poor boy, as it required money."

Old memories resurface.

In those innocent childhood days, this scene often brought tears to eyes.

Jung-hoon goes on,

"On a very cold winter day, Nello heads to the church for the last time. But, like a miracle, someone had opened the curtain covering the painting. Nello views his dream painting and, while dying of cold with Patrasche in his arms, talks about the painting and dies happily."

Director Park recalls his past but reminds himself he's not that innocent child child anymore. Business must be conducted with a cool head and precise analysis. He can't let childhood sentiments ruin it.


Jung-hoon smiles slightly and says,

"Can you guess what we named this ceiling painting?"

Director Park frowns and replies,

"You just said it, didn't you? 'A Dog of Flanders and Other stories', or 'A Dog of Flanders.'"

Jung-hoon turns fully to face Director Park,

"It's EL Sistema."

An unexpected answer.

Director Park struggles to recall this term from his memory.

It sounded familiar.

Jung-hoon points to the painting and says,

"There's an additional scene in this painting that doesn't appear in the cartoon or the children's book. Do you know what it is?"

Director Park looks up at the painting.

Indeed, there's a scene in the painting that wasn't in the cartoon or children's literature.

"The many hands holding the curtain. Is that it?"

Jung-hoon nods with a smile.

"Correct, Director."

"What does that represent?"

Jung-hoon leans on the vinyl-covered backrest of the audience seat and explains,

"I mentioned earlier that the painting's title is EL Sistema. It's also the name of an educational program started in 1975 by the Venezuelan economist and musician Abreu. He taught instrument playing to children from slums who had no opportunity for proper art education."

Finally, it clicks for Director Park.

"Oh, that."

Jung-hoon nods and continues,

"When this program started, many scoffed at it. They wondered why waste time on learning music, which adds nothing to life, when even industrial education is insufficient. But amazingly, music changed these children's lives, and El Sistema became known as the orchestra of miracles."

Jung-hoon smiles, pointing with his index finger.

"What happened to these children?"


Jung-hoon says,

"To learn an instrument takes a considerable amount of time. So, the children learned patience through practicing. Once they mastered their instruments, they gained confidence and a sense of achievement, and through the process of creating harmony with other children, they learned to be considerate and cooperative. Children who were once filled with despair due to poverty and violence experienced for the first time the feeling of accomplishing something."

Director Park, twitching his eyebrows, retorts,

"So what?"

Jung-hoon asks,

"What Abreu taught the children wasn't just how to play an instrument. It was how to use art as a tool in life."

Using art as a tool in life.

The true meaning art brings to our lives.

Jung-hoon is right.

Director Park nods in agreement.

"That makes sense."



"Would you mind closing your eyes for a moment?"


Wondering what he is up to, Director Park frowns but decides to comply and closes his eyes. In the darkness, he hears Jung-hoon's voice.

“Have you closed your eyes?”


“You saw me, remember my face?”

“Of course, I remember.”

“I was wearing a dirty apron covered in paint. You remember, right?”


“What color was the t-shirt I wore under my apron?”


“What was it?”


“Don’t you remember? You definitely saw me.”

Park, annoyed, opens his eyes to see Jung-hoon.

“I was wearing a black t-shirt. Is that so important that I need to recall it with my eyes closed?”

Jung-hoon smiles.

“It's not about the color of my t-shirt, Director.”

Jung-hoon stands up from his chair and approaches.

“We often just glance at things we see and feel. We miss a lot in life, even at this moment.”

“What are you trying to say?”

Jung-hoon points upwards, laughing.

“Would you like to look at the painting again?”

Park tilts his head back, doubtful that the massive artwork could have changed so quickly.

Still dominating the ceiling is Rubens' painting.

Dozens of hands hold red curtains.

Some are men's hands, others delicate women's.

The boy at the bottom of the painting is moved to tears, while an oblivious dog lies on the floor, gazing up at the scene.

Park speaks.

“What in the world···”

Then, his attention shifts from the central painting to faces sketched faintly beside the hands holding the curtains, seemingly their owners.


Jung-hoon's voice comes through.

“Art sharpens our perception of what we see and feel, intuitively understanding beauty and diversity, learning how to coexist yet stand apart.”


What if these faintly sketched faces were to densely populate around the curtain? Would the masterpiece still capture attention?

No. The Rubens painting occupies less than 10% of the ceiling.

Even including the boy and dog, it's less than 15%.

'The subject isn’t Flanders’ dog.'

Park's eyes fix on the sketched faces, still too vague to discern.

He admits to himself that he didn't understand the painting as he thought he did.

“Explain it to me, I’m waiting.”

Jung-hoon approaches Park.

“Remember Nero’s wish? To see Rubens' painting, which the poor can't afford?”

“That's right.”

“Ever wonder why the curtain was open that day, in his dying moment?”


Unknown. The original novelist didn't specify, so it's just a miracle.

“I don’t know.”

Jung-hoon taps his temple.

“It's a moment for artistic imagination. Can you imagine?”

After a pause, Park speaks.

“Maybe a cleaner was dusting the frame, or a wealthy viewer left early. Or perhaps a sympathetic rich person opened it for Nero, who was just staring at the curtain.”

Jung-hoon snaps his fingers.

“You do have a deep artistic sense.”


Jung-hoon stands in front of the painting, arms wide.

“Yes, we can imagine various scenarios. A person bringing a ray of light to a poor boy denied art. What’s more romantic than such a story?”

“That’s true.”

Jung-hoon grins and snaps his fingers.

A woman, who had been intently watching Jung-hoon, operates something. Suddenly, the ceiling brightens, and Park, caught off-guard, looks up.

A beam projector on the floor casts a splendid image on the ceiling, guiding the painters. The faintly sketched faces become distinctly visible.

“There, there!”

The owners of the hands opening the curtain in Nero’s last moment.

Park shivers at the sight of familiar faces vividly drawn in the masterpiece.

And then, he sees his own face at the forefront. In his usual brown suit and white shirt, his face, slightly idealized, looks serious and dignified.

“My face is···”

Jung-hoon's voice reaches him.

“In this land, this country, there are many Neros. Those who, due to financial, mental, or temporal constraints, keep a distance from art. What if you become someone who shows them that the true value of life is to be moved, to love, to hope, and to live passionately?”

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