Curious tourists invade galleries but none are willing to spend
The areas around Gyeongbok Palace in central Seoul, including Samcheong-dong, have been home to many important art galleries for decades. However, in the last fortnight they have seen an unprecedented number of visitors as tourists flock to the recently opened Blue House, which is located to the north of the palace.
Once the president's office, the Blue House has been opened to the public for the first time in 74 years after recently elected President Yoon Suk-yeol relocated the executive office to Yongsan district, central Seoul.
The owners and curators of the galleries have mixed feelings about the change. The Korea JoongAng Daily visited three of the galleries closest to the Blue House — K.O.N.G Gallery, PKM Gallery and Barakat Contemporary on Samcheong-ro 7-gil, which are just a 1-minute walk from the Blue House’s Chunchu Gate.
“The daily number of visitors soared almost ten times!” said Grace K. H. Kong, founder and director of K.O.N.G Gallery. “However, that didn’t lead to an increase in the sale of artwork. Whereas the museums which charge admission will benefit from increasing visitors, commercial galleries, which tend to allow visitors to enter for free while depending on sales of artworks, in particular, those which deal with high-price artworks whose potential buyers are limited, will see no benefits.”
“Accordingly, I’m considering changing exhibition plans — introducing more shows with lowered thresholds for visitors and potential collectors,” she continued. “As part of those plans, K.O.N.G Gallery will hold a solo show of Michael Kenna in June to celebrate the opening of the Blue House to the public.”
British photographer Kenna is famous for small, square black-and-white photos of calm landscapes, which have poetic and soothing qualities. The solo show, which starts on June 21 and runs through Aug 7, will feature the landscape photos that the 68-year-old artist took in France and Ukraine between the 1980s and the early 2010s. The gallery will charge admission of 5,000 won ($3.95) for the exhibition.
PKM Gallery, one of Korea’s major galleries which deals mainly with high-priced avant-garde works, has no plans to change its exhibition strategy.
“We also saw the daily number of visitors increase — but not so dramatically — by about 1.5 times, perhaps because of the exterior of our gallery building,” said Park Kyung-mee, founder and head of the gallery.
The gallery has a simple and sophisticated façade without windows on the ground floor while K.O.N.G Gallery has large glass windows.
Park added the opening of the Blue House to the public will not likely influence either the gallery’s sales or its exhibition style.
The gallery is currently holding a solo show of famous painter Kim Jiwon, which will wrap up on Thursday. The exhibition features the artist’s well-known “Mendrami” series, which depicts red celosia flowers in different phases and seasons in Expressionist style. The artist describes the flowers as “animal-like plants spurting aggressively” and his paintings effectively visualize those qualities. The show also features his new “Lemon” series and “Infinite Stream of Water” series.
All these series have “unique combinations of colors, images that oscillate between the boundaries of the figurative and the abstract, and rough yet sparse texture on the surface, which invite the viewers to their intense energy and lyrical beauty,” the gallery said in a press release.
PKM does not charge admission.
The gallery will open the solo show of Nevin Aladağ, a Berlin-based artist born in Turkey on Wednesday. The highlights of the exhibition are works that hover the border between inventive musical instruments and sculptures, which explore the relation between space and sound. The gallery does not charge an admission fee.
BY MOON SO-YOUNG [email@example.com]