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Beyond commercial: must-visit exhibitions in Seoul now

Eazel Magazine

Aug 31, 2022

As the art world prepares to travel to Seoul on occasion of Frieze and KIAF Seoul, and as many galleries and commercial spaces set up their program, events, and exclusive parties, we go countercurrent and share our picks on the fantastic non-commercial venues, museums and non-profit institutions that will open their doors to the international audience. 


As we explored in our previous editorial, Korea has been nurturing for a long time the art system, especially focusing on creating a sustainable and fertile ground for non-profit and non-commercial art institutions, museums, exhibition spaces and cultural centers to develop and rise. As a result, today Seoul counts an incredible number of venues with incredible programs and collections that span across heritage, traditional, modern, and contemporary art, without excluding experimental and artist-run spaces.


If you are wondering what to not miss, we prepared our picks for you; from must-visit art museums such as MMCA (National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Korea), Amorepacific Museum of Art, SeMA (Seoul Art Museum), Art Sonje Center, and Space K; to other alternative spaces and non-for-profit organizations including, Alternative Space Loop, geomangcreative, and CR Collective.  



Within the 5km radius of COEX



Sungsil Ryu, The Burning Love Song (detail), 2022
Courtesy of Atelier Hermès, Seoul 



SongEun Art Space is presenting 13 of Songeun Artcube (an exhibition program that supports emerging artists) artists under the title, Summer Love 2022; guest artists Ahram Kwon (the winner of the 2022 SoungEun Art Award) and new works by one of Korea’s most renowned experimental artists, Lee Kun-Yong will also be showing. 


Located within the Maison Hermès, Atelier Hermès is presenting The Burning Love Song by Sungsil Ryu, the awardee of the 2021 Hermès Foundation Missulsang (a prize dedicated to Korean art by an international jury). The exhibition addresses contemporary socio-political issues through an immersive and interactive body of works. 


Work from Model is a solo exhibition by Yun Jeong-ui at Geomang Creative Studio (GCS), showing the artist’s perception of what sculpture means; that is not simply showing the end result of a three-dimensional art form, but inclusive of the process of simulating and making models.



Near the city center



Korakrit Arunanondchai, still from Songs for dying, 2021
Courtesy the artist, Bangkok CityCity Gallery, Bangkok, Carlos/Ishikawa, London, C L E A R I N G, New York/Brussels, Kukje Gallery, Seoul 



Art Sonje Center is presenting Korakrit Arunanondchai’s solo exhibition Songs for dying / Songs for living, where the artist makes inquiries about life (birth and death) through polyphonic narratives based on social and political realities of Thailand. Songs for dying (2021) was shown previously at the 13th Gwangju Biennale; Songs for living (2021), which was created in collaboration with Alex Gvojic, will show for the first time in Korea. 


Hito Steyerl’s most comprehensive exhibition to date in Korea is presented by the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art (MMCA). Titled Hito Steyerl: A Sea of Data, the exhibition is the artist’s first ever solo exhibition in Asia, showing 23 of her most representative works from the 1990s to her most recent works, including newly commissioned piece by MMCA, Animal Spirits (2022). 


Museumhead is presenting Run, a solo exhibition by Eugene Jung, reflecting on the concept of disasters. As the title suggests, the exhibition attempts to secure safe distance from disasters and possibly fleet from what has become hyperactive realities. The space may seem disorderly, as it would be after a disaster, but the audience might find their own tranquility in the midst of chaos. 



Other spaces



Installation view of Daniel Richter: My Lunatic Neighbar at Space K, Seoul 
Courtesy of Space K, Seoul



Andreas Gursky’s first solo exhibition held in Korea is at Amorepacific Museum of Art (APMA). Spread over six exhibition rooms, it is the opportunity to see over 40 photography works by the artist from the 1980s through to new works made during the Covid-19 pandemic. The exhibition includes Ocean II and Antarctic (both 2010), representing Gursky’s highest vantage point at 35,000 km above the earth. 


Hitting Mung is a solo exhibition of Philippe Battikha at Alternative Space Loop. The title of the exhibition is a literal translation of a Korean expression, referring to a situation where people don’t engage with their mind or thought, usually spending time on their phone. Drawing attention to the capitalization of this ‘doing nothing time’, the exhibition presents questions around materialism and digital culture. 


A little out of the way from the city center in Space K, Daniel Richter’s solo exhibition My Lunatic Neighbar is on view. The exhibition is showing Richter’s body of work from the 2000s to the recent, in styles of both figuration and abstraction, which the artist continuously transitions between. When the sun goes down, Erick Oh's site specific installation is displayed on the exterior wall and the floor of the space. Titled Origin, the abstract light work explores complex human emotions that are universally shared. 



As the artweek is in full swing, we hope that our exhibition picks can spark your interest in visiting and getting to know another side of Seoul’s art scene. Beyond the glam and glitter of the current market booming, there is a sustainable and nurturing environment that since the 1980s has been developing and thriving in many ways, giving birth to what we can confidently call world-class institutions. What you are able to visit today, is the result of a long-term investment and enthusiasm towards the possibilities of art & culture that is often unmatched. 



The article has been written in collaboration with Valentina Buzzi, a contributing writer for eazel magazine.

If you would like to find out more about general landscape of Korean art, please read the recent article, Without further ado: Seoul welcomes Frieze