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Chung Sanghwa, Suh Se-ok, Lee Bul: Korean art travels the United States, Europe and Asia

posted 07 Feb 2018

More than 30 artists have booked consecutive overseas shows, including Kim Tschangyeul, Lee Kunyong, Chun Kwangyoung and Kim Minjung
Seoul Auction aims at sales of KRW 50 billion in Hong Kong, to open venue for both auction and exhibition in February
Art dealers will join Art Basel in Hong Kong, turning eyes overseas instead of the sluggish domestic market

Artist Kim Tschangyeul is working in Pyeongchang-dong, Seoul, in the run-up to his solo show at Almine Rech Gallery in New York in coming March.

In 2017, art auction house Seoul Auction achieved a combined total of KRW 42.4 billion from three rounds of art sales in Hong Kong. The figure has shed 15 percent from 2016 sales of KRW 48.8 billion amid China’s retaliation against Seoul’s deployment of the United States’ anti-missile system known as the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense. Still, Seoul Auction accounts for 22 percent of the total sales (KRW 189 billion) posted by all Korean auction houses in 2017. The strong sales figure is interpreted as a sign that Korean art has gathered momentum to advance on overseas markets, backed by Kim Whanki’s popularity since 2015 and the Dansaekhwa boom. Following the trend, the Korean art circle in 2018 is more animated than ever with plans to join the US, European, and Asian markets, including Hong Kong, which has emerged as an advance base for Korean art.

Clockwise from top left: Suh Se-ok, Chung Sanghwa, Yang Haegue and Lee Bul.

Korean art galleries are scheduled to attend a series of well-known art fairs such as Art Basel in Hong Kong, and Seoul Auction is betting everything on auctions in Hong Kong. Some 30 renowned artists, including Kim Tschangyeul, Kimsooja, Lee Bul, and Dansaekhwa artists Chung Sanghwa and Park Seobo are preparing exhibitions to be held in established art museums and galleries in the US, Europe, and Asia. The logic behind such moves is that the Korean market will not likely recover from the long-term downturn anytime soon.

Rush to overseas art fairs

With prolonged corrections by the Korean art market, art galleries have turned their eyes to overseas markets like the US, Europe, and China, where the atmosphere is relatively favorable. Eleven galleries including Hakgojae Gallery, Leeahn Gallery, Johyun Gallery, and Gallery Baton will attend Art Basel in Hong Kong (March 29–31, 2018, Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Center) and vie with major overseas peers. Kukje Gallery and PKM Gallery will represent Korea at the world’s largest art fair, Art Basel, in Switzerland in June 2018. Major dealers like Chungjark Gallery and Galerie Bhak are also preparing to participate in art fairs in Zurich, Switzerland; Cologne, Germany; Miami, US, and elsewhere around the globe.

Seoul Auction’s strategy is to go all in on Hong Kong, with a goal to realize total bids of KRW 50 billion in 2018. As the auction house has recorded strong sales through auctions in Hong Kong, it plans to hold three or four more rounds in 2018, including dates already scheduled for May and November. The company has also formulated a plan to attract foreign art enthusiasts; while it only had a branch office in Hong Kong, , the company will open a venue to serve as both a permanent showroom and a saleroom in the Central district by the end of February at the latest.

Korean artists’ overseas exhibition calendar for 2018

Korean artists’ overseas exhibition calendar for 2018 solo exhibition

More than 30 leading artists to make an overseas “sortie”

Artists are also playing a role in introducing Korean art through their individual and group shows in the US, Europe, and Asia. Chung Sanghwa will show the essence of Dansaekhwa through his solo exhibition at Berggruen Gallery in San Francisco in the US beginning on February 11. Well known for his water drop paintings, Kim Tschangyeul, who made headlines in Hong Kong in 2017, now plans to underscore the originality of Korean art through his representative works from the 1970s to recent years at Almine Rech Gallery in New York. The excellence of Korean contemporary art will be noted through shows by Suh Se-ok (Lehmann Maupin in New York), Chun Kwangyoung (Pearl Lam Galleries Hong Kong), performance artist Lee Kunyong (Centre for Contemporary Asian Art in Sydney), Kim Minjung (White Cube in London) and Jun Myungja (Champagne Palmer & Co. Museum)

A set of overseas shows will also feature new media (including video) and installation artists who have worked in and out of Korea with a dream of becoming “the next Nam June Paik.” Nicknamed the “art warrior,” Lee Bul will actively aim at the European market. She has garnered attention through her individual show at the Mori Art Museum in Tokyo in 2012. In 2018, her retrospective exhibitions are scheduled to take place at Hayward Gallery in London (May through August) and Martin-Gropius-Bau in Berlin (September). There, a large volume of her drawings, performance records, and new pieces will be presented. Selected as a 2018 Wolfgang Hahn Prize winner, Yang Haegue is working on individual shows to be presented at Museum Ludwig in Cologne and Kunsthaus Graz in Austria. Along with other global artists, Moon Kyungwon and Jeon Joonho will participate in a group show that will take place at the National Taiwan Museum from March through June.

Korean artists’ overseas exhibition calendar for 2018 solo exhibition

A mere KRW 2 billion subsidy for the “Korean Wave” for art

While art dealers and artists are pioneering the art frontier for globalization of Korean art, related subsidies from the government total a mere KRW 2 billion per year. This is because Seoul’s support for the Korean Wave is concentrated at pop music, TV shows (including dramas), and performance arts, rather than visual art.

Seoul Auction CEO Lee Okkyung said, “Korean art is better recognized in the world as major overseas collectors have purchased Korea’s Dansaekhwa pieces one after another. Given the growing overseas demand for Korean art, more support should be provided to help more Korean artists participate in overseas art fairs and exhibitions.”

By Kim Kyong-gab / The Korean Economic Daily

the korea economic daily


Kim Kyong-gab

The Korean Economic Daily

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