Art events in Seoul Korea: A Review of the 15th Korea International Art Fair
Art Republik reviews KIAF, held last October at Seoul with a focus on Taiwanese artists.
The 15th edition of Korea International Art Fair (KIAF) took place in Seoul from October 12 to 16, 2016. This edition, the guest of honour was Taiwan, shining a spotlight on the Taiwanese contemporary art scene through 11 participating galleries from the country.
At the same time, there were two related talks: one introducing emerging Taiwanese artists Chih Hung Kuo, Yu Ching Lin and Hsing Yu Wei, and the other a bi-cultural discussion about the new generation of Taiwanese artists between Emerson Wang, Executive Director of Art Taipei 2016 and Sangchul Kim, Professor of Department of Paintings, College of Art, Dongduk Women’s University. Talks were a significant part of the fair’s programme, and also included a spotlight on the art business, from looking at new trends and developments in Korea and other Asia Pacific art markets to collaborations between artists and businesses in designing products.
Spreading over two halls, the sprawling art fair had a distinctly domestic feel. Out of 170 galleries, nearly 120 were from Korea. There were a good number of booths in which information was available exclusively in Korean, which made it difficult to find out more about the artworks if one did not understand the language.
Among the galleries that stood out was Gallery Shilla, which constructed an enclosed space that invited visitors to enter, rather than having a conventionally open layout. The gallery exhibited artworks from Daniel Buren, Alan Charlton, Tadaaki Kuwayama, Kishio Suga, Lee Dong-Yub, Suh Seung-Won, Park Doo-Young and Nam June Paik. Speaking about the gallery’s focus on Kishio Suga at the fair, Director Kwang Ho Lee said, “Kishio Suga is known for his Mono-ha movement artworks that shows differences between two materials, using raw industrial materials to show new perception and connection to his philosophy.”
Nam June Paik’s works were seen throughout the fair in various media. At Gallery Shilla, his paintings from the 80s and robot works from the 90s were shown. Not coincidentally, 2016 was the tenth anniversary of the luminary’s death, and a retrospective was held at the Dondaemun Design Plaza. Another Korean artist whose works was found in multiple booths was Oh Se Yeol, including Hakgojae Gallery, Baudoin Lebon and SM Fine Art Gallery.
Some galleries presented both established and emerging Korean artists. Johyun Gallery featured Dansaekhwa artists such as Park Seo-bo, Lee Ufan, Yun Hyong-keun and Chung Chang-sup. At the same time, it introduced up-and-coming artists such as Lee So Yeun and Ahn Jisan. The gallery had a positive experience at the fair, citing the connections made with existing and new clients. “KIAF 2016 was a great opportunity to meet new both home and worldwide collectors, and also to build relationships. It was very important to present Korean contemporary arts to collectors from Asia-Pacific such as China and Indonesia,” says Sooyoung Park, the gallery’s assistant sales director.
Generally, the galleries were pleased with the art fair. The Page Gallery in Seoul praised the fair in its capacity as both exhibitor and visitor. “We presented artworks from and outside of Korea at different stages in their career and in a variety of media which were accessible to and engaging for visitors. It was generally a great fair to see wonderful works of art.” The gallery brought artworks from American artist KAWS, British artists Julian Opie, Mustafa Hulusi, and Korean artists Chang Yeonsoon, Kim Tschoon Su.
A gallery booth that was unlike any other was Salon de H, which paired artworks with design furniture made from aircraft pieces from Sky Décor, a design corporation of household and office furniture, founded by Khan Key and Samuel Omondi. On show were also works from artists Woo Kuk Won, Han Kyung Woo and Kang Sukho. Han’s work plays on the viewer’s conventional perceptions of items, such as in ‘Plastic Rorschach’, in which he creates a beautiful sculptural print from purple and blue-green plastic bags.
Galerie Marie Lund from Paris participated for the eighth time at KIAF and brought an interesting range of artworks, including the stunning organic glass artworks of Danish artist Pipaluk Lake. “This year the artists presented were met with great interest. We almost sold out the works of Paris-based Korean artist Lee Jin Woo, and work by Pipaluk Lake whom we presented for the second time at KIAF was sold to a very important international collection,” says Lund, “The photos of Swedish photographer Helene Schmitz drew the attention of press and visitors and many were happy to discover totally new works by Danish artist Peter Martensen that we had shown in the 2008-2011 editions of the fair. And altogether very, very positive experience in terms of communication, networking and sales.”
There was also a ‘Special Hallway’ with 9 sculptures and installation works. These works, from Carole A. Feuerman, Hyun Chung, Barthélémy Toguo, Seungmo Park, Bernar Venet, Sangho Shin, Joyoo Park, Dietrich Klinge, and Jim Allen Abel, commanded attention as one meandered through the two halls in the sprawling art fair. Feurman’s ‘Monumental Brook with Beach Ball’, a hyperrealist sculpture presented by Galerie Bhak, depicted a young woman wearing a swimming cap, resting against a colourful beach ball around which her arms are wrapped. Another mixed media work presented by Wooson Gallery was ‘Road to Exile’ by Barthélémy Toguo, featuring a wooden ship resting precariously on a pile of bricks, piled high with bulbous bundles in a variety of cloth coverings, in a commentary about cultural and social inequality and the inherent vulnerability that everyone feels.
Held in conjunction with KIAF was Gallery Weekend Korea 2016 featuring art tours, talks and the like at 20 Korean galleries, as well as Korea Art Week 2016, with the theme ‘Art in Life’, which saw a plethora of activities in art spaces throughout the country, including biennials in Seoul, Gwangju and Busan. Of note was the exhibition ‘The Man Who Fell in to Art: Collecting as a Form of Personal Narrative’ at the SongEun Art Space, which featured young Indonesian collector Tom Tandio’s personal collection of contemporary Indonesian art, with numerous Southeast Asian gallerists, artists and collectors present at opening night. The Leeum, Samsung Museum of Art was a must-visit for its stunning collection of art from around the world. At the museum was also the special exhibition ‘Olafur Eliasson: The Parliament of Possibilities’. Altogether, Korea Art Week provided an interesting crash course on the art scene in Korea, its pride in its own artists and galleries, as well as its pockets of effort to link with art from other parts of the world.
This article was first published in Art Republik.