Art Busan, the second largest art fair in Korea in terms of total sales as of 2018, successfully wrapped up its eighth edition Sunday with more international participants.
A total of 164 galleries from 17 countries took part in the art fair held in BEXCO in Busan, including a few galleries operated by Koreans overseas, playing an important role in promoting Korean art internationally while introducing lesser-known artists to Korean collectors.
Aya Ben Ron's relief on plywood 〈7 Sisters ― Shift 2〉 was put on sale by the gallery. Ben Ron represented Israel at the Venice Biennale 2019, showcasing 〈Field Hospital X〉, an installation to cure social illness. Aando Fine Art also presented works by Dragos Badita, Esther Tielemans, Hansjorg Schneider and Sławomir Elsner.
Byun has been actively introducing Korean artist to the European art scene, holding solo and group exhibitions of Nam, Choi Jeong-hwa, Lee Lee-nam and KDK, also known as Kim Do-kyun at the Berlin gallery.
"It takes a while to establish Korean artists in Europe as Westerners do not know where this new type of art popped up. Koreans are well aware of Western art history, but most European art connoisseur do not understand why Lee Bul makes airship-like installations or Suh Do-ho creates sheer fabric sculptures of houses even though they are the most famous among Korean contemporary artists," Byun said.
The director said it was important to present Korean art steadily to gain visible results.
"Once is not enough. As I have introduced Korean artists consistently through solo and group exhibitions, their works have begun to sell and collectors' interest in them emerged," Byun said.
Among them, Nam's works are headliners for the gallery's booth at Art Busan. The artist is best known for his geometrical abstract works, which are in between sculptures and paintings as Nam creates line reliefs on canvas.
The Daegu-based artist will soon hold his solo show 《Gesture in Space》 at the Ludwig Museum Koblenz in Koblenz, Germany, starting June 15.
"This is the first time for Nam to hold a solo exhibition at a museum abroad. We have high expectations for the Ludwig Museum exhibit, as our effort to establish international acclaim for Nam is starting to pay off," Byun said.
Shin Gallery, based in New York, took part in the art fair for the Projects section with Swedish artist Andreas Emenius. Emenius presented "Living Sculptures" performance Saturday, attracting Busan's art lovers to his works explored the juxtaposition between movement and stillness.
Shin Hong-gyu, director of Shin Gallery, also showcased works by late artists Lars Erik Falk (1922-2018), Carla Prina (1911-2008), Stephen Antonakos (1926-2013) and Ted Stamm (1944-1984). Such selection reflects Shin's intention to rediscover and shed light on forgotten, but notable artists.
"Before I started the gallery business, I was more interested in Impressionism than contemporary art. However, as I met living artists and listened to them, it opened a new world to me," Shin told The Korea Times.
"I think that the range of works presented Korean galleries and acquired by Korean collectors is relatively narrow. I actively take part in Korean art fairs to offer works of the artists who are not famous now, but will become well-known here soon. Emenius' works are introduced in Korea for the first time, but he is having a big solo exhibition at Nikolaj Kunsthal in Copenhagen, Denmark."
Shin said Swedish artist Falk's sculptures on view are from the 1950s, but they are very modern and important examples of concrete art and he unveiled them in Busan before an exhibit in New York.
"It is rewarding when young artists I supported make their way to Venice Biennale. Lee Keun-min, one of the artists represented by Shin Gallery, is even better known abroad than Korea," Shin said.