Korean contemporary art spread through Asia threatened by meltdown


Korean artists and galleries have made a huge impact on Beijing recently with the presence of PKM Gallery, Do Art and Arario Beijing in the Brewery International Art Garden says Theme magazine.

All three spaces showcase Korean artists but throw Chinese and international artists into the mix as well. “Today some of the best galleries in Beijing are Korean,” agrees Dr Katie Hill, a writer, curator and lecturer who is currently writing a book on visual modernity in China, to be published by Lund Humphries in 2009.

Ham Jin Aewan, 1025, c-print.

Ham Jin Aewan, 1025, c-print.

Further south, Seoul Auction, Korea’s largest and longest established saleroom, has announced its move into the Hong Kong market.

Seoul Auction will be the first Asian saleroom to enter the Hong Kong market, reports the Financial Timesand is kicking off on 7 October 2008 with a $38.5m sale of modern and contemporary art. “Hong Kong is now the world’s third biggest art market and has huge growth potential,” says the firm’s marketing director, Misung Shim. Among the offerings is Roy Lichtenstein’s Still Life with Stretcher, Mirror, Bowl of Fruit (1972), with an estimated sale price of $9m to $10m and Willem de Kooning’s Untitled XVI (1982), with an estimated price of $5.85m to $7.8m, as well as contemporary Chinese and Korean art.

To the west, ARTSingapore 2008, held this year 10 to 13 October 2008 and known in the past for its focus on Southeast Asian artworks, will for the first time in its history have significant representation from India, Japan and particularly Korea. This year, 22 new Korean galleries will participate including Park Ryu Sook Gallery, Gallery Neo, Gallery Yeh, Gallery SP and Gallery Bhak.

But with financial markets floundering, is the timing right for Korean artists and galleries to realise their ambitions?

Absolutely not, claims the Financial Times, after all, visitors were thin on the ground at this month’s Korean International Art Fair, “which opened its doors on the ‘day of days’, when international financial markets were in meltdown”. With the Kospi (Korean stock index) in freefall and the won plummeting, “it was hardly the time to expect Koreans to buy art”.

What a contrast to last year, when the Korean art market was booming, Korean buyers were active in auctions in New York and three new art funds were launched. “The problem is, 80 percent of Korean art buyers are pure speculators,” says Juhl Joohyun Lee, director of Arario gallery, “and the international situation is having a drastic effect on the Asian art markets.”

Further discouraging buyers is the fallout from the Samsung scandal. Earlier this year, Korea’s golden couple, Samsung chairman Lee Kun-Hee and his wife Hong Ra-Hee, were accused of using money from a $64m slush fund to buy art for the Leeum, Samsung’s art museum. Lee stepped down from his chairmanship of Samsung, and while Hong was cleared of these charges, buying by Samsung, previously one of the country’s biggest art collectors, has apparently come to a total halt.


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Korean contemporary art spread through Asia threatened by meltdown — 1 Comment

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