Gov’t moves to boost art market

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Gov’t moves to boost art market

The Korean government has rolled up its sleeves to revitalize the country’s art market that it says has much potential but is underappreciated.

The move comes after President Park Geun-hye pointed out a lack of support at a Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism briefing in February.

Admitting that its assistance to the industry has been somewhat inadequate so far, the Culture Ministry unveiled a set of measures yesterday to help artists, collectors and art lovers.

The measures, according to the ministry, are the result of consultations with industry experts and insiders.

“Korea’s art market is small compared to the country’s economic standing,” the ministry said in a press release. “But the market has much potential as there is high demand.”

The measures, the ministry says, include providing studio space and funding for artists, help with buying and selling art, and the creation of art-themed cultural events.

Among others things, the ministry will improve working conditions for artists. It will adopt standard pay rates, which the ministry says are already in place in countries like the United Kingdom, Canada and Australia.

A proposal will be made in October, and starting next year, galleries operated by the state, provinces or cities will adopt the system first.

Also starting next year, the ministry will distribute standard contracts for artists to ensure fair trade between museums or galleries and artists.

To promote the active buying and selling of artwork, the ministry will introduce an online system in English, Chinese and Korean where people can find out the price of artworks.

Kim Tae-hoon, director general of the ministry’s arts policy bureau, said Koreans love art exhibitions, as seen by the large number of visitors attending shows by international artists such as Edvard Munch, yet don’t feel comfortable purchasing art.

“It’s true that buying artworks in Korea has a negative association,” Kim says, “like a means to accumulate wealth, which former President Chun Doo Hwan did.”

Kim also pointed out that besides making art prices transparent through an online system and eradicating the bias about buying pieces, offering tax benefits to those who purchase or donate art is equally as important.

Also, to help more people enjoy art, the ministry said it plans to introduce Art’s Week, where art will be sold and exhibited while seminars, campaigns and other cultural and academic programs take place at multiple venues.

Additionally, the ministry will hold a market for low- or mid-priced art, which industry insiders say already dominate sales at art fairs.

As a trial, such a market will open in Gwanghwamun on Oct. 23.

With these attempts, the ministry aims to expand Korea’s art market to a 630 billion won ($606 million) industry, as it was in 2007 during the Korean art industry’s peak.

Korea’s art market has been decreasing since 2008. Last year, it was worth about 390 billion won.

In comparison, the global art market was worth 68.8 trillion won, according to ministry figures.


BY KIM HYUNG-EUN [hkim@joongang.co.kr]
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