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Korean international art fair greets seismic shifts in Asian art market

Sept 23,2019
It’s time again for the biggest art market of the year in Korea - this year looking back at the history of Korea art and looking forward to the future of art in the region more generally.

The Korean International Art Fair (KIAF) will kick off four days of festivities this week on Thursday at Coex, southern Seoul, and run until Sunday. Organized by the Galleries Association of Korea, SBS and Coex and supervised by the KIAF Art Seoul Operating Committee, this year is the event’s 18th, and it is seen as offering a chance for the Korean art market to redefine its position in the Asian art scene.

The number of galleries participating this year remains the same - 175 - with fewer foreign galleries compared to last year. According to Choi Woong-chull, the chairman of the Galleries Association of Korea, it comes as the KIAF develops its own quality check in an endeavor to heighten the art market’s status in Asia.

“We saw that prominent galleries decided not to participate in the fair if they saw lower quality galleries take part,” said Choi. “And so this year, we turned down more than 10 galleries from overseas, which is why the number of foreign galleries has fallen.”

This year, 131 galleries from Korea and 44 from abroad are taking part. While Korea’s biggest names make the list - including Kukje Gallery, Gallery Hyundai, Gana Art, Gallery Hakgojae, PKM Gallery, Leeahn Gallery, Arario Gallery and Johyun Gallery - leading galleries from abroad also take part, such as New York’s Pace Gallery, Hong Kong’s Massimo De Carlo, White Stone Gallery, Over the Influence and Frankfurt’s Die Galerie.

Lehmann Maupin, which opened a Korean branch in 2017, is also taking part in this year’s event for the first time.

Some 10,000 works will be on display, and major attractions for art enthusiasts will include works by Kim Whanki (1913-74) and Lee Ufan and a 4-meter (13-foot) installation by James Turrell. Live performances by Koh Sangwoo and Mari Kim will also take place. KIAF put together a special exhibition featuring 38 works by 26 artists, displaying figurative paintings that were created from 1950 to 1979, as a means to highlight the meaning of works from the era. Next year, there will be an exhibition on abstract and non-figurative paintings during the same era.

This year could be a pivotal year for the event, as the fate of Hong Kong remains up in the air. Whereas Hong Kong was regarded as Asia’s biggest art market, where the market is vibrant and purchases can be made at tax rates lower than that of other countries, the ongoing political turmoil puts Seoul in the running as the next potential market for galleries and art collectors.

“A lot of art collectors and galleries from overseas will be looking around the fair even if they don’t take part this year. Seoul may have potential as the next breakthrough for the Asian art market,” said an official from KIAF.

BY YOON SO-YEON [yoon.soyeon@joongang.co.kr]


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