Lee Hwaik Gallery celebrates its 20th anniversary with special exhibition
“When I met artist Kim Dong Yoo for the first time, he was working on paintings in an animal pen in the countryside of South Chungcheong instead of in a studio, because he could not afford one. Even now, I burst into tears when I recall the scene. I introduced the artist to Christies’ Hong Kong and then, at the auction house’s sale in 2006, his painting ‘Marilyn Monroe v.s. Chairman Mao’ fetched a price 25 times higher than the estimate — then a record price for a Korean artist at a foreign auction.”
This is what Lee Hwaik, 64, founder and head of Lee Hwaik Gallery, said during last week’s press preview of a special exhibition that celebrates the 20th anniversary of the medium-sized but influential Korean gallery. Kim, 56, is now one of the most popular Korean artists in foreign art markets, with his meticulous paintings of “double images,” in which a celebrity’s iconic portrait is composed of hundreds of tiny portraits of another famous figure.
The two-part special exhibition features 24 artists who have exclusive contracts or have worked with the gallery. Part one, which runs through the end of this month, features 12 artists who were born in or before 1968, including Yoon Byung-rock, well-known for his hyperrealistic apple paintings, and famous abstract artist Lee Kangso, as well as Kim.
After working as a curator at the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art (MMCA) and director of Gallery Hyundai, one of Korea’s top galleries, Lee opened her own small gallery in Insa-dong, central Seoul, in September, 2001 and relocated it to Songhyeong-dong, which is regarded part of the Samcheong-dong art zone, in 2005.
“Based on my experience at the MMCA and Gallery Hyundai, I concluded I have to pioneer overseas markets to help Korean artists, because the local market is small,” she said. “I have participated in various foreign art fairs including ‘Abu Dhabi Art,’ ‘Art Stage Singapore,’ ‘ART London’ and ‘Art Central Hong Kong.’ "
Among them, the Abu Dhabi Art fair in particular has offered many new opportunities to Korean artists, as seen in the case of Kim Duck Yong whose flat works that use jagae, or iridescent mother-of-pearl of shells, has been gaining great popularity there. Kim also presents a work in this exhibition.
The first part of the exhibition also features painters Han Un-sung, Jeong So-youn, Lee Jung-woong, Lee Ki-young, Oh Chi Gyun, Song Phil-yong, Sul Won-gi and Rim Dong Sik (in alphabetical order of their surnames).
The second part, which kicks off on Sept. 2 and runs through Sept. 15, will feature the famous video artist Lee Lee Nam, sculptors Noh Jun and Yi Hwan-lwon and painters Ahn Doo-jin, Cha Young Seok, Choi Byung-jin, Choi Yeong-geol, Ha Ji-hoon, Jeong Bo-young, Kim Mee-young, Lee Jungeun, and Park Sang-mi.
“It is my greatest pleasure to participate in and contribute to the history and future of Korean artists like this,” Lee said.
BY MOON SO-YOUNG [firstname.lastname@example.org]