Location is key to success at nation’s oldest art fair

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Location is key to success at nation’s oldest art fair


Visitors browse works at the opening of the Korea Galleries Art Fair at COEX in southern Seoul on Friday. The nation’s oldest art fair saw sales more than double this year from 2010. [YONHAP]

Is it a sign of recovery in Korea’s art market or just an effect of relocation? Sales at the 29th Korea Galleries Art Fair, the nation’s oldest art fair, more than doubled this year from 2010. This year’s fair was held at COEX in southern Seoul, while last year’s was held in the southeastern port city of Busan.

The Galleries Association of Korea, which organizes the fair, said in a statement late Monday that about 410 paintings, sculptures and other artworks worth 3.5 billion won ($3.11 million) had been sold at the four-day fair that ended on Monday. The figure represented a sharp increase from the 320 pieces worth 1.52 billion won sold at last year’s fair.

The increase in sales came even though the number of participating galleries declined to 66 from last year’s 84. The association said that this year, minor collectors were buying small-sized moderately priced works.

Only domestic galleries participate in the Korea Galleries Art Fair, and it tends to deal with works by emerging artists or small-scale works by established artists. On the other hand, the Korea International Art Fair, the nation’s biggest art fair, also operated by the association, deals with high-end works by world-renowned artists. The KIAF is held every fall in Seoul.

The association launched the Korea Galleries Art Fair in Seoul but held it in Busan between 2008 and 2010 to stimulate the regional art market. But when many member galleries based in Seoul complained about the additional cost of moving artworks to Busan, the association decided to move the event back to Seoul.

“Relocation seems to be the biggest factor in the surge in sales,” said Choi Jeong-pyo, a professor of economics at Konkuk University and an art market expert. “The scale of the art market in Seoul is much different than that in Busan.

“It is too early to see the sales increase as a sign of recovery in the local art market. I predict that the art market will remain similar or just slightly recover this year.”

Meanwhile, according to a report filed by Choi last week, the composite index for Korean artwork rose 9 percent last year from 2009. That compares with a nearly 30 percent dip in both 2009 and 2008. Still, the increase is less than the 18 percent rise in the Kospi stock index last year, Choi said, pointing out that the art market is not yet back in full swing.

By Moon So-young [symoon@joongang.co.kr]
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