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Different perspectives on appreciating art: how art professionals outside the market experience art fairs

Eazel Magazine

Sep 26, 2023

Frieze Seoul 2023
Courtesy of Lets Studio and Frieze
Photo: Lets Studio

 

 

In the prequel article to this one, eazel invited five individuals, who share a profound passion for art despite not being explicitly entrenched in the art world, to attend this year's Frieze Seoul and Kiaf SEOUL art fairs. In a similar context, we approached another group of people, four art professionals whose work is deeply embedded in Seoul's vibrant local art scene. Diligently involved in art industry-related activities, yet with roles that do not conform to the typical mold of market players, such as gallerists and art dealers, these individuals hold valuable insight on the unfolding events in the city, including Frieze Seoul and Kiaf SEOUL. 

 

Art fairs often prioritize commercialization, creating an atmosphere that predominantly caters to well-established stakeholders rooted in the market, overshadowing the valuable contributions of art professionals who may not have direct ties to the commercial aspects of the industry. In response, we deliberately chose to lend our ears to a diverse array of voices this time around. Our aim is not only to broaden our own perspective but also to suggest a more comprehensive understanding of the nuances within the realm of art fairs. 

 

Highlighting their insights regarding the localization of art fairs and the dynamics of the Korean art market and industry, this eazel-exclusive feature aims to open a discussion led by art professionals in the blossoming art hub of Seoul.

 


 

Before we dive in, please meet the four art professionals who will provide a more expansive perspective on art fairs and the Korean art industry.

 

Saemi Cho (Saemi), a freelance art critic and advisor in Seoul.

 

Kevin Hwang (Kevin), currently a curator at Seoul's Space K, a non-profit gallery.

 

Minjung Kim (Minjung), responsible for art management at Hyosung Corporation.

 

Lucida Kyungmin Lee (Lucida), director of art market research at meetingroom, a non-commercial art industry research collective.

 


 

Tell us about your Frieze Seoul/Kiaf SEOUL 2023 experience.

 

eazel: The second edition of Frieze Seoul/Kiaf SEOUL has come to a close. We would like to hear about your experience. Did you attend Frieze Seoul/Kiaf SEOUL last year as well? If so, what changes did you notice?

 

Saemi: I was unable to attend Frieze Seoul or Kiaf SEOUL last year, but based on what I read in articles and heard from acquaintances, it seems there has been an improvement this year in terms of the number and diversity of fair-related activities and programs. While it is difficult to make my own comparison with last year’s fair, I thoroughly enjoyed Frieze Seoul 2023 and, referring back to my experiences at other art fairs, it is safe to say that it exceeded expectations.

 

Lucida: Many international galleries tend to view Korean collectors as intellectually engaged and knowledgeable about artists, albeit with somewhat narrower preferences. Consequently, in the past year, they structured their programs to showcase artists and artworks that aligned with the tastes of Korean collectors. This year marked a noticeable shift in the approach of galleries. Instead of showcasing specific artists who are already well-known in Korea or preferred by Korean collectors, these galleries diversified their programs. This strategic shift reflects their commitment to establish a long-term relationship with Korean art enthusiasts and the market, emphasizing diversity as a key element.

 

Kevin: The Focus Asia section at Frieze Seoul was particularly interesting since it showcased works from galleries and artists across Asia, which reflected the research that international galleries had done on the Korean art market. One thing that I found dissatisfying was the diminished potential of this year’s Masters section. The 2022 edition of Frieze Masters featured many museum-quality works and pieces by old masters. As an art professional and enthusiast, I thoroughly enjoyed being able to view such works. Nonetheless, the overall experience was pleasant.

 

Minjung: I am with Kevin on that point. I also felt that it was harder to come across “masterpiece” level works throughout the art fair, especially in comparison to last year. It was still enjoyable though. As Lucida mentioned, last year being the first ever Frieze event held in Seoul, everyone was in a heightened state of excitement and anticipation. The 2023 edition had a slightly more composed atmosphere. There were fewer visitors and the lines were not too long, which allowed for a more relaxed environment to enjoy the artworks.

 

 

Capsule Shanghai (F02) at Frieze Seoul 2023, Focus Asia
Courtesy of Lets Studio and Frieze
Photo: Lets Studio

A visitor at Frieze Seoul 2023 explores the details of a hand-painted relief by the German artist Mevlana Lipp, which was showcased at Capsule Shanghai's booth as part of Focus Asia. Curated by Hyejung Jang, Chief Curator at DOOSAN Gallery, and Joselina Cruz, Director and Curator at the Museum of Contemporary Art and Design (MCAD), the 2023 edition of Focus Asia presented solo exhibitions by acclaimed artists, highlighting 10 invited galleries from Asia. This section earned praise from art professionals, including Kevin, for providing insights into Asian art and the initiatives of Asian galleries. 

 

 

eazel: What did you think of this year’s Kiaf SEOUL? Last year, many discussions revolved around the balance between Frieze Seoul and Kiaf SEOUL. What are your thoughts on the matter this year?

 

Lucida: More foreign galleries participated in this year’s Kiaf SEOUL, which I interpret as the growing interest of the global art world in Seoul. Although this did not necessarily translate into qualitative growth. Some galleries stood out though, with harmonious curations of works by blue-chip, mid-career, and young artists, and others presented impressive solo booths. In order to improve in this regard, Kiaf needs to work on its selection matrix of participating galleries, possibly even by reducing the number of booths. 

 

Minjung: There is a gap between the two fairs in terms of their global positioning. Due to that, during the first year of their coexistence in 2022, Kiaf SEOUL appeared weaker than Frieze Seoul in many aspects. In contrast to previous years, Kiaf demonstrated noticeable improvement by learning from past experiences. At the same time, Frieze Seoul adopted a strategy based on qualitative rather than quantitative growth through a careful approach in terms of the selection of galleries and overall program of the fair. Overall, it appears that these two art fairs have successfully achieved a harmonious coexistence.

 

eazel: Did any particular scene or moment leave a lasting impression on you at this year's Frieze Seoul/Kiaf SEOUL?

 

Saemi: I was pleasantly surprised to see Bruce Nauman's A Pair of Hands (1996), presented by Konrad Fischer Galerie (Frieze Seoul, M21) at Frieze Masters, as I had never expected to see it here. Through a conversation with the gallery staff, I learned that it was displayed at Frieze Seoul with the expectation that this work could introduce conceptual art to the audience in the overall context of the program. The gallery also showcased works by other famous artists like Carl Andre and On Kawara, allowing me to enjoy masterpieces that one might typically encounter in museums.

 

Lucida: Among the impressive ones were Hannah Woo's The Great Ballroom (2023) at G Gallery (Focus Asia, F04), performances by Rondi Park at White Noise (Focus Asia, F08), and the performance of Pierre Huyghe's Name Announcer (Fictional Version) (2016/2023) throughout the duration of the fair at Esther Schipper Gallery (Frieze Seoul, B13). The screening of ikkibawiKrrr's work and the accompanying performance was also memorable. These events have me looking forward to next year's Frieze Seoul in anticipation of more diverse programs that can enhance the art fair experience for visitors.

 

Kevin: Comparing the booths of local galleries that participated in both Frieze Seoul and Kiaf SEOUL was rather delightful. It is quite challenging for galleries to participate in two different art fairs happening simultaneously, let alone in the same city and venue. The efforts to differentiate the strategies for the two spaces did not go unnoticed. Gallery Hyundai, for instance, made a particularly clever choice. They focused on Seundja Rhee at Frieze Seoul (M09) and held a solo exhibition of Ryan Gander at their Kiaf SEOUL booth (A48), heightening their overall impact.

 

 

ikkibawiKrrr’s performance during Frieze Seoul 2023
Courtesy of Lets Studio and Frieze
Photo: Lets Studio

During Frieze Seoul, visitors had the opportunity to watch ikkibawiKrrr's Seaweed Story (2022), featuring singing women divers from South Korea's Jeju Island and their performance. A related work by the artist collective will be showcased next year at Breath(e): Towards Climate and Social Justice at the Hammer Museum as part of Getty and Frieze's collaboration leading to the 2024 PST ART exhibition. 

 

 

eazel: What was the most striking gallery booth at the events and what aspects of it contributed to that impression?

 

Minjung: I was truly mesmerized by Damien Hirst's towering Tree of Life (2008), which reached an impressive height of 335 cm and Jeff Koons' Gazing Ball (Centaur and Lapith Maiden) (2013) at the Robilant+Voena booth at Frieze Masters (M17). Gallery Baton's concept booth (Frieze Seoul, C01) was thoughtfully curated around the color blue, featuring a selection of artworks that resonate with this palette. At KIAF Seoul, Gallery Shilla (Kiaf SEOUL, A33) presented an intriguing project, The Great Shit Show, which involved the auction of nine tins by Piero Manzoni, containing various types of "excrement" from artists, chefs, curators, and more. 

 

Kevin: My answer is Tina Kim Gallery (Frieze Seoul, B19) at Frieze Seoul all the way. Their overall display and presentation of artists were an ode to stability, achieving a good balance between Ugo Rondinone’s small sculptures and the large paintings by seok ho kang. Yuko Mohri’s work at Yutaka Kikutake Gallery (Focus Asia, F03) also left a lasting impression. The artist’s approach involving electrical signals to visually and auditorily restore everyday objects was impressive. 

 

Saemi: I enjoyed visiting Neugerriemschneider (Frieze Seoul, B22) and The Modern Institute (Frieze Seoul, B07) at Frieze Seoul. At The Modern Institute, the atmosphere with Charles Rennie Mackintosh's furniture design and interior aesthetics made visitors feel as if they were in Glasgow, Scotland, at the turn of the century. Neugerriemschneider showcased works that bridge the gap between design and art, including pieces by Jorge Pardo, works utilizing 3D-printing technology, and large-scale installations by artists like Olafur Eliasson. These works are typically challenging for individuals to own, making me all the more appreciative of their presentation that catered for Korean collectors. 

 

Lucida: The Modern Institute gave me a rather mind blowing experience. On Preview Day, the gallery presented the booth with new works by Walter Price, specifically created for Frieze Seoul. When I visited the fair the next day, the booth had been completely rehung, and Jim Lambie's works had filled up every inch of the space; they had already affixed Jim Lambie's geometric pattern sheets to the floor before installing Walter Price's artwork, covering it with a carpet for Price’s showcase on the first day. In an art fair format that is akin to a "department store," showcasing two solo booths over two days was no short of a performance, leaving a very strong impression. 

 

At KIAF Seoul, memorable galleries include The Page Gallery (Kiaf SEOUL, B57), which is known for its consistent efforts in terms of booth curation, and Wooson Gallery (Kiaf SEOUL, A52), which presented a balance of works from blue-chip, mid-career, and emerging artists.

 

 

The Modern Institute (Frieze Seoul, B07) at Frieze Seoul 2023
Left: Preview day (with works by Walter Price) 
Right: Public Day 1 (with works by Jim Lambie) 
Photo: Lucida Kyungmin Lee

Lucida was drawn by The Modern Institute's daring choice to offer two distinct presentations at Frieze Seoul 2023, a departure from the norm in the bustling and exhausting art fair environment. During the VIP Preview day, the gallery unveiled new pieces by Walter Price, and on Public Day 1, the booth underwent a transformation with a display of works by Jim Lambie.

 

 

eazel: Throughout the duration of the art fair, diverse events and projects, including popup exhibitions by foreign galleries, also took place. Did you attend any of those?

 

Minjung: Korean art museums and galleries, as well as international galleries with branches in Seoul like Lehmann Maupin, Whitestone Gallery, White Cube, Perrotin, and Gladstone Gallery, all organized excellent exhibitions to coincide with the art fair season. Even domestic auction houses, alongside Christie’s, Phillips, and the recently-opened Sotheby’s in Seoul, curated high quality shows and programs. Some events felt rushed and hastily prepared, and in certain cases, the onsite guidance was not conducted properly, which I found somewhat disappointing.

 

Lucida: I made an effort to visit not only exhibitions organized by major Korean galleries but also pop-up events by foreign galleries. While the overall atmosphere was great, it was a bit underwhelming that most were solo exhibitions of non-Korean artists. Some spaces did hold solo exhibitions of Korean artists or group shows featuring contemporary artists, but I think that a more balanced roster would make it more enjoyable for a wider audience.

 

Kevin: I was busy during that period preparing for a performance event related to Zadie Xa's exhibition at Space K, where I currently work as a curator. Xa reinterprets traditional Korean folktale characters through installation works utilizing painting, sculpture, and patchwork. During Frieze Week, we prepared traditional Korean rituals such as Gosa, as well as traditional percussion instrument performances, including Pungmul (Korean folk percussion) performances. It was absolutely delightful to see art professionals and visitors from abroad express their enjoyment at both the event and the exhibition.

 

 

Seoul National University Danpoongyeon, in collaboration with artist Zadie Xa, celebrating the traditional Korean harvest season with a Pangut performance at Space K, Seoul
Courtesy of eazel

This event, held in conjunction with Zadie Xa's ongoing exhibition at Space K in Seoul, where Kevin is a curator, was part of Frieze Week. Together, the artist and the non-profit gallery welcomed people in Seoul to partake in these traditional Korean rituals and rejoice in the cultural performances.

 

 

eazel: Many art professionals from around the world visit the country during Frieze Week. Has the exchange between the domestic and international art communities become even more active compared to the past? If so, tell us about your personal experiences.

 

Lucida: I really cherish the opportunity to meet international art professionals outside of the fair context in programs such as Hannam Night, which was the only late-night event I went to this year. There have been previous attempts to organize an event that would cater to all art communities and art enthusiasts, but they all fell short. While long-term work-related exchanges are necessary, I once again realized that meeting face-to-face, engaging in conversation, and building networks can also be part of the job. 

 

Kevin: It was quite clear, even just by looking at the nationalities of the foreign professionals at Space K, that many art professionals from around the world visited Korea during Frieze Week. Last year saw a significant number of gallery owners from Europe, and this year, key curators and supporting staff from major international museums and foundations visited as well. I especially noticed the presence of Chinese and Southeast Asian collectors, including Chinese art experts.

 

Minjung: I share a similar opinion. While the new events during Frieze Seoul did leave a fresh impact last year, the programs this year felt absolutely electric. I have never seen such a stream of gallery dinners, artist-invite events, and endless parties in the Korean art scene before. The efforts made by major international museum curators and representatives of prominent galleries to visit Korea and participate in these events demonstrate a desire to connect with the Korean art market on a deeper level.

 


 

Tell us about your Art Fair experience in general.

 

eazel: Do you frequently attend art fairs?

 

Lucida: I primarily attend domestic art fairs, especially those known for their strong curation, with a main objective to understand trends. I want to know which artists are being showcased at multiple booths, or which artist is being favored by a particular gallery. Unlike exhibitions in gallery venues, art fairs serve as a platform for galleries to introduce artists they are currently focusing on, or to highlight artists they deem significant to local collectors. As an art enthusiast myself, I also occasionally make purchases at art fairs. This year, at an external exhibition, I acquired works from an artist’s series that I saw at Frieze Seoul.

 

Minjung: My reason is the same as Lucida: to stay on top of trends. I visit international art fairs about once or twice a year and domestic art fairs about three to five times a year. Going to these events not only allows me to assess the overall market atmosphere, artwork trends, and their current market value, but also gives me an opportunity to network with various players in the industry.

 

Kevin: I agree. Art fairs provide an excellent platform to assess the state of contemporary art and the artists I’m interested in. Sometimes, I even discover new talents in the process. Networking is also an essential part of the equation: meet various people, engage in conversations about the contemporary art scene, and gather information. Prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, I used to visit Art Basel Hong Kong every year since it is close to Seoul.

 

Saemi: Working in the field of art criticism and curation for years has made me realize the importance of understanding the atmosphere of fairs, as they are the most sensitive and reactive places in the market, making them the optimal location to gauge trends in the art world.

 

 

Installation view of Paris+ par Art Basel, Paris, 2022
Courtesy of Paris+ par Art Basel, Paris

Lucida, Minjung, Kevin, and Saemi, all attend art fairs to keep their fingers on the pulse of current art trends. These events serve as a valuable opportunity to spot emerging trends, identify rising artists, and assess market dynamics. Networking with fellow professionals is also a key part of their art fair experience.

 

 

eazel: Do you have any personal routes when visiting art fairs? Did you stick to your plan this year as well?

 

Lucida: I typically start by visiting galleries that are relevant to my work. If I have interviews or appointments scheduled, I prioritize those. Otherwise, I usually follow an S-shaped route to see all the booths. I’m quite diligent, so I like to check the map to identify the locations of major galleries. I also familiarize myself with the list of key artworks promoted by the galleries beforehand. Then, on-site, I examine the featured artworks, engage in conversations with the directors, and get permissions for any quotes I might need. 

 

Kevin: Starting by visiting major galleries or those featuring artists I'm interested in, I try my best to explore everything. I sometimes rely on recommendations from fellow art professional companions if I am with them. Since it's impossible to scrutinize every booth, I tend to get a quick overview of the booths as a whole and then focus on the artworks that pique my interest. I take photos first and conduct further research about the artists later. I usually indulge in coffee breaks, but prefer not to have champagne at art fairs as it can drain my energy. 

 

Minjung: I try to see as many artworks as possible, but I don’t have much of a sense of direction - just a couple of turns, and I am completely lost. So I start at the entrance and follow along the booth walls, making sure not to miss any, then I backtrack while looking at galleries on the opposite side. I repeat this process, while ticking off the map to make sure that I haven’t missed any booths. The following day, I select specific galleries or artworks of interest and take my time to examine them in detail at a slower pace.

 

Saemi: I tend to get excited upon entering the fair venue, so I have to make a conscious effort to calm down and stay composed. After that, I start moving in order. I usually spend more time at galleries related to my work. I am also quite interested in collecting artworks, so if I come across a work that I really like, I will change directions and head to that gallery, talk to the gallerist, and inquire about the price.

 

 

eazel: Out of the fairs that you have visited, which stands out as the most memorable, and why?

 

Lucida: I first visited Art Basel Miami Beach in 2016 for work. This event showcased the city-specific strategies of the art fair more prominently than at any other location. Solo exhibitions of Latin-American artists were displayed in both private and public museums, and the participating galleries and artists themselves placed a strong emphasis on Latin America in addition to the United States and Europe. 

 

Out of the domestic art fairs, GooDS 2015 and Perform 2019: Linkin-out were the most interesting and impressive. GooDS had a radical format led by a team of organizers and artists. It showcased innovative curatorial skills, achieving significant results in sales. However, it was a largely volunteer-driven or talent-contribution event, which led to its regrettable conclusion after just one edition. Perform 2019, on the other hand, was an art fair focused on the sale, appreciation, and collection of performance art, which had been evolving over several years.

 

Saemi: The most impressive art fair that I’ve visited thus far is the 2003 edition of Frieze London. I was studying in the U.K. at the time, and I had thought that the Venice Biennale was the ultimate art event. Visiting Frieze London made me think that I could potentially acquire a work by Ilya Kabakov. While that did not happen, even the mere possibility of that purchase was a delight.

 

Kevin: Mine is Art Basel Hong Kong. Both the sight of M+ and major galleries housed in the Pedder Building as well as the energy of emerging artists in the Wan Chai District left an impression - a true example of collaboration between the local community and the global art market.

 

Minjung: There is simply no way to describe the thrill of visiting art fairs like Art Basel in Basel and Frieze London. However, I cannot forget the memory of when Frieze Seoul was first held in 2022. It was a historical moment in the art world. I was in constant awe throughout my visit to Frieze Seoul last year; I simply could not believe that mega-scale galleries from overseas were here at COEX. As I walked through the booths, I couldn’t shake the surreal feeling that I was at The Regent’s Park instead.

 

 

Sprüth Magers at Frieze London 2022
Photo: Linda Nylind

Both Minjung and Saemi think highly of Frieze London, the flagship event of the Frieze Art Fair brand. Established in 2003 by Amanda Sharp and Matthew Slotover, the debut fair graced London's Regent's Park, and it has remained a fixture there ever since. Frieze Art Fair, particularly its original London edition, is widely seen as more than just an art market-centric event; it serves as a versatile platform for enjoying an array of activities and programs, including performances, discussions, and film screenings.

 

 


 

Tell us about your thoughts on the art fair’s locality and the Korean art market.

 

eazel: What are your thoughts on the regional and cultural characteristics of Seoul, as well as the sense of local identity within Seoul's art scene?

 

Kevin: South Korea has established a robust contemporary art infrastructure, with the capital city at its epicenter. Seoul, as a sprawling metropolis, boasts several distinct art districts, each contributing to a unique art scene: Samcheong-dong, where tradition and modern art seamlessly blend; Hannam-dong, known for its hip and trendy atmosphere; Cheongdam-dong, representing the pinnacle of high-end culture; and areas like Hongdae, Mullae-dong, and Seongsu-dong, where an ecosystem of young artists and institutions thrives. 

 

Lucida: I concur with the statement that South Korea has successfully cultivated a comprehensive art ecosystem, particularly in Seoul. The city boasts a wealth of art museums, galleries, exhibition spaces, art universities, and a burgeoning community of artists. During the pandemic, there was a notable surge in art enthusiasts and collectors, and as a testament to the growing Seoul art scene. 

 

 

Installation view of the 12th Seoul Mediacity Biennale: THIS TOO, IS A MAP at the Seoul Museum of Art, Seoul, 2023
Courtesy of Seoul Museum of Art, Seoul
Photo: GLIMWORKERS

Lucida and Kevin expressed much excitement regarding Seoul's vibrant art scene, built upon a robust foundation of art institutions, including museums, galleries, art schools, and a dedicated community of artists and curators. The city stands out for its non-commercial art organizations, encompassing artist-run and alternative spaces with rich legacies, as well as mid and small-scale art spaces fostering collaborations among artists, curators, researchers, and more. Additionally, significant biennale events around the country, like the Gwangju Biennale, Busan Biennale, and the current Seoul Mediacity Biennale at the Seoul Museum of Art are not to be missed.

 

 

eazel: What do you think sets Frieze Seoul apart when compared to its sister fairs (Frieze London, Frieze New York, Frieze Los Angeles) or other art fairs? Additionally, do you believe the locality of Seoul’s art scene and its cultural influence are reflected within Frieze Seoul?

 

Minjung: Drawing comparisons between Frieze Seoul and its sister fairs (Frieze London, Frieze New York, Frieze Los Angeles) is a complex task, given its relatively short history. As Frieze Seoul enters its second year, there is still ample room for growth and development in various aspects, including increasing the number of participating galleries, elevating the quality of displayed artworks, expanding outdoor sculpture projects, and fostering external collaborations. This year’s fair has witnessed a notable internationalization and stabilization, marked by the influx of collectors from Japan, China, and South Asia. Frieze Seoul's unique position as the sole Frieze Art Fair in Asia hints at its potential to assume a central role in the Asian art market.

 

Saemi: As Minjung pointed out, Frieze Seoul is still in its early stages, having just celebrated its second edition. It may take some time to fully articulate and establish its unique character and identity. Nevertheless, I hold high hopes that Seoul, as a thriving hub for Asian culture and art, can become a major player. If Frieze Seoul continues to nurture events like the Artist Awards and Focus Asia, which aim to introduce and support young artists, it may gradually establish itself as a pivotal hub for Asian art on the global stage.

 

Minjung: Indeed, but I must add that when it comes to how effectively Frieze Seoul encapsulates the essence and artistic characteristics of Seoul, I have yet to observe any immediate, discernible impact. While I recognize that Frieze Art Fair has made contributions to the growth of the Korean art scene through its collaboration with Kiaf SEOUL, it is worth noting that its integration into the local sphere may require some time. 

 

Lucida: It may be challenging for Frieze Seoul to directly conceive and execute programs that fully capture the essence of Seoul's art community. At the end of the day, the Frieze Art Fair is not obliged to fully absorb Seoul's local art scene. To achieve mutual growth and ensure sustainable collaboration, fostering a cooperative relationship with the local art community seems to be the most suitable approach. Foreign curators whom I encountered at the art fairs, have indicated that, in addition to the Gwangju/Busan Biennale and Seoul Media City Biennale, they now have compelling reasons to visit the country annually due to the influence of Frieze Week. 

 

eazel: Over the past few years, South Korea's art market has shown both quantitative and qualitative growth. Do you agree? Do you think that the hosting of the Frieze Art Fair in the region has had an impact on these advancements, or do you believe they are unrelated?

 

Minjung: I do agree with that statement. In terms of quantity, the overall interest in the art market increased significantly during the COVID-19 pandemic, leading to rapid expansion. Adding to that, I believe that the introduction of Frieze Seoul, a prestigious art fair, has played a pivotal role in elevating both the quantitative and qualitative aspects of Korea's art market. With the advent of Frieze Seoul, top-tier international galleries began considering the possibility of establishing a physical presence in Seoul. 

 

Lucida: My thoughts resonate with Minjung’s viewpoints. If Frieze decides to maintain its presence in Korea beyond the expiration of the MOU with Kiaf SEOUL - which expires in three years - I envision Korea establishing itself as the heart of the Asian art market. While there may be concerns about international galleries introducing non-Korean artists to local collectors and its potential impact on opportunities for Korean galleries and artists, my belief remains strong: as the local art community continues to discover and nurture exceptional talent and endeavors to enhance the scene's overall quality through well-crafted programs, Korean artists and galleries will find an abundance of opportunities to thrive.

 

 

Installation view of The Embodied Spirit at White Cube, Seoul, 2023
Courtesy of White Cube, Seoul

White Cube, one of the prominent mega galleries based in London, has recently unveiled its new space in Seoul, strategically located within the vibrant Dosan Park area in Gangnam. With White Cube's addition, Seoul is now home to 13 international art galleries.

In the pre-pandemic era, Hong Kong had long held the mantle of Asia's primary art hub. However, due to political challenges, many international galleries sought alternative locations. Seoul emerged as a compelling contender, driven by the growth of its art market and the increasing presence of a dynamic community of art collectors, particularly among younger generations. Hong Kong's enduring strength persists, anchored in its history of art and collecting, as well as its formidable financial prowess. Nevertheless, Seoul, with its well-established network of art connections, now stands tall as a rising star alongside Hong Kong in the global art scene.

 

 

eazel: The standing of the South Korean art market has undergone a transformation. Numerous art professionals from overseas find Korea intriguing and appealing. Has this situation had any direct or indirect influence on your current job or activities?

 

Saemi: Over the past 15 years, I have embraced a multitude of roles within the art industry – as an art critic, writer, curator, and educator at an art school. In the past two to three years, I have additionally taken on the mantle of an art advisor, capitalizing on my prior experiences and understanding of the burgeoningKorean art market. I must admit, I find this evolving landscape to be exceptionally riveting.

 

Kevin: It is absolutely true that the opportunity to collaborate with art professionals from around the world has been an enriching experience, and for a variety of compelling reasons. These exchanges have significantly broadened my horizons, allowing me to develop a more global perspective and a deeper understanding of art beyond domestic boundaries. 

 

Minjung: With the exception of situations where I needed to engage with gallerists for art acquisitions, resales, or the preservation and maintenance of specific artworks within Hyosung Corporation’s collection, direct communication with galleries abroad used to be rather limited. However, this dynamic has experienced a significant shift since overseas galleries became more actively involved in the Korean art scene, particularly since the inception of last year's Frieze Seoul.

 


 

Lastly…

 

eazel: Are you considering attending next year’s Frieze Seoul/Kiaf SEOUL? If so, could you kindly share your motivations for planning to attend?

 

Saemi: It was a pleasure to be able to attend Frieze Seoul/Kiaf SEOUL in 2023 with eazel. I look forward to visiting again next year because I don't want to miss the opportunity to see the works of great artists all in one place.

 

Kevin: Yes, of course. Those two fairs provide a distinctive opportunity for Seoul’s art professionals like me to truly engage with the contemporary moment of the global art landscape. 

 

Minjung: Passing up the opportunity to attend the year's biggest art festival would be unwise! There's no reason not to visit.

 

Lucida: My first visit to Frieze London was in 2008, and as a newcomer whose previous art fair experiences were confined to indoor convention centers, I was truly taken aback by the spectacle before me: sprawling tents, grandiose installations, and an electrifying energy that enveloped the entire city during the week. My hope is that Frieze Seoul will continue to expand its horizons, offering an even richer array of programs and collaborative projects, all while nurturing its distinct identity. Kiaf SEOUL has remained an annual pilgrimage for me since my affiliation with Gallery Hyundai in 2006, and I hope it evolves into an art fair that not only celebrates its uniqueness but also shines a spotlight on exceptional Korean galleries.