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Ways to Transform the Old Customs: What Have You Seen at Art Busan 2018?

Amy Gahyun Lee

Jun 03, 2018

The beautiful Haeundae beach of Busan and its mild weather made people relax and carry their art fever to the highest pitch. The 2018 edition of Art Busan was held from April 19th through 22nd. The fair had showed a remarkable transformation of both composition and operation, which indicate its huge potential to become a new leading event in the Korean art market.


The heat was a constant factor at this year Art Busan Fair. The temperatures were boiling and so was the attendance and the sales. An amazing sixty thousand people descended over the four days fair, with more than twenty-thousand people coming in the last day. This growth in the attendance is not only a great reflection on Art Busan, but rather it is a great reflection on the Asian Art Market. Art Basel in Hong Kong a few months ago had similar success in turn out reaching record attendance for the fair.


For its 8th edition, Art Busan invited 161 galleries from 15 countries to BEXCO (Busan Exhibition & Convention Center). There was a mix of galleries at the fair. About one third of the galleries came from abroad, while the rest were domestic galleries. The distinguished gallery list included: Pearl Lam Galleries (Hong Kong, Shanghai, Singapore), Tomio Koyama Gallery (Tokyo), Platform China Contemporary Art Institute (Beijing), Tang Contemporary Art (Beijing), The Drawing Room (Manila). Art Busan has now taken a seat with the world’s other renowned art fairs.



Art Busan 2018. Image copyright on Art Busan 2018



One of the key factors for the record attendance was the partnership between Art Busan and Everyday Practice, a graphic design collective, which gave the fair a new and improved identity. This identity brought in a new atmosphere, and a more positive energy. In addition, the fair’s curatorial showcase was new and improved as well. The current trend is for Art Fairs to present curatorial sections to showcase a museum-scaled monumental installation during the fair. Following this international trend, Art Busan invited Shinji Ohmaki, who surprised visitors at Art Basel in Hong Kong exactly a month ago with his famous kinetic work, Liminal Air Space-Time (eazel.net/magazines/23) to the fair’s media exhibition titled Uncertainty in Existence, and let his work solely occupy the entire 3B exhibition hall of BEXCO with his 7m height-media installation piece, Gravity and Grace. (2016, Iron, urethane paint, light (iron, stainless steel, LED light, etc.), 700 x 400 cm) This effulgent work, visually embodying the East Asian gourd-shaped bottle, provided the visitors with a relaxed and sedate mood.



Shinji Ohmaki, Gravity and Grace, 2016, Iron, urethane paint, light (iron, stainless steel, LED light, etc.), 700 x 400 cm
Courtesy of the artist



The fair was not only enjoyed by the art appreciators that came, but also by a majority of the galleries at the fair, which reported about a significant sales improvement compared to the previous fairs. PKM Gallery, one of the leading galleries in Korea, which primarily presenting Olafur Eliasson, Kwangyong Chun and several paintings of Brent Wadden, stated that their sales at Busan dramatically improved compared to those of last year’s. Tomio Koyama, Director of Tomio Koyama Gallery from Tokyo, who has participated in Art Busan several times also mentioned they sold major pieces of Nakai Tomoko, a Japanese emerging artist including the works that weren’t even presented at the fair.


The promising works of Julian Opie and Ugo Rondinone, presented respectively by Kukje Gallery (Seoul), Nam June Paik from Gallery Hyundai (Seoul), and Ufan Lee from Gana Art (Seoul) were also all sold out with high demand by the major domestic collectors. The major galleries also brought some of their young representatives’ competent works along with their celebrities to Busan in order to introduce them, somehow test them out to/in the market. Pearl Lam Galleries’ Luke Heng, a Singapore born emerging artist, received a lot of attention from the media with his several paintings at the booth. The deep and sophisticated color expression of his works are predominant on canvas, and they were all sold out during the fair including a beautiful dark blue painting that features his labor-concentrated but simple-looking appearance.



Pear Lam Galleries, Hong Kong, Singapore, Beijing at Art Busan 2018



In conjunction with the mega galleries that presented, emerging art spaces were also invited to Busan as well. A couple of ones that stood out were Gallery 2’s booth, a Seoul based art gallery, supporting emerging Korean artists that showcased the remarkable paintings by emerging Korean artist, Hyunsun Jeon and Studio Concrete’s booth, a cultural space in Seoul operated by young artists’ collective.



Studio Concrete, Seoul at Art Busan 2018



Above all, what is really impressive about this year’s fair was of course Busan’s enthusiastic and passionate collectors and increased number of public attendants, who showed passion to become a part of the highly demanded cultural fair in the city. A variety of special exhibitions and satellite events were additional factors to successfully attract people. As a participant, Eazel also met lots of people during the four day-long event and enjoyed communicating with/listening to them. Art Busan is indeed becoming a fair that grows with the art market and community in Asia.