If you have an interest in Korean contemporary art, be sure to make time for the latest 20 minute podcast from Arttactic, a London-based research house.
In it, British collector and sports promoter David Ciclitira, together with Rodman Primack, Phillip de Pury’s London chairman, discuss Korean Eye, a multi-year initiative founded by Ciclitira which aims to promote Korean contemporary art to a Western and ultimately international audience.
Korean Eye is holding its first 31 artist exhibition at The Saatchi Gallery in London until 5 July 2009 and the exhibition catalogue is available online. “This space in London is the iconic space right now, it has three to four thousand people a day going through the space in 20 days, so we’ll have 60 to 80 thousand people coming through, so that will be good” says Ciclitira in an interview with Art Market Monitor.
None of it’s from my collection. It’s all brand new. It’s all for sale. I’ve built up a collection of Korean contemporary art in the last two or three years. But I asked a young curator to put the show together, so it’s his choice of artists. I don’t necessarily agree with all of it, but when you hire a curator, you let them do it.
Later Ciclitira plans to bring a larger Korean Eye-branded show to other ‘markets’ including perhaps Singapore, Abu Dhabi and Hong Kong.
‘The Korean Eye’ initiative is interesting on several fronts:
1. Bringing Korean art to the West
Korean contemporary art has, as yet, had little exposure in the West.
Chinese and Japanese contemporary art have already received academic and critical attention from universities and museums in Western cultures. However unlike Japanese art which has experienced long international exposure and Chinese art which has strong national support from economic growth, Korean art is in the shadows. note 1
Ciclitira points out in the podcast that although show catalogues produced in Korea are of a high quality, there is not yet a bilingual book on Korean contemporary art, a gap which ‘Korean Eye’ plans to address in the next 18 months.
Koreans have a 25 year history of collecting Western artists but support for local artists is burgeoning. There has been a growth spurt in the number of Korean galleries in the last 2-3 years and artists are not harnessed to individual galleries. The resulting competitive environment created keen pricing even before the recession. Now the recession is stimulating further discounts. Korean galleries are present at Asian art fairs and have set up galleries across Asia but are still rare further west.
2. Bank sponsorship money can still be found …in Asia
Funds available from bank sponsorship have been thin on the ground since the Lehman collapse in autumn 2008. While the Hong Kong Art Fair ’09 failed to find a replacement sponsor for Lehman, Ciclitira has had better luck:
I’ve been very fortunate to be sponsored by Standard Chartered. That’s not a bank known to many American people. It’s now Britain’s second-largest bank. It was the only bank that didn’t invest in subprime. It’s in 108 markets around the world. It’s highly profitable. It’s basically a Hong Kong-based business. But it’s the largest single foreign investor in Korea. They bought a major bank there, and it’s a really super bank which supports, locally, art. That’s one of the things that they do. And they’ve been really, really supportive of this project. I have been amazed how much traction we’ve gotten from their involvement. So in this time of recession, they’ve been very helpful and we hopefully get to work together with them in the future to build it in other markets.
3. Branded selling exhibitions – a new style of show
Finally ‘Korean Eye’ represents a new style of branded selling exhibition which brings together a collector’s passion, government support, bank sponsorship and auction house sales expertise.
Somewhat like Saatchi, Ciclitira has a background as a professional promoter and an ongoing passion for art. But whereas Saatchi has chosen to exhibit his own self-curated non-selling shows, Ciclitira makes no bones about his plans to develop ‘Korean Eye’ as a brand of selling shows. While he admits to having experienced a steep learning curve:
What I’ve found interesting in this whole learning process is how unsophisticated the art world is, because when you work in major sports events, there are more dates, so much more research, everything is television linked to media values, and art feels amateur when you look at how they do things, and it’s no small wonder that when they need to raise massive money, they find it quite hard.
Collectors who, in the later stages of the their collecting career, want to be involved with supporting the evolution of art, come from backgrounds of all kinds. It will be fascinating to watch what kind of influence this sports promoter will bring to the democratisation of art through branding and media involvement.
I worked a long time with UBS, and I have access to all their research, and their research, number one for their clients was golf. Art came in third, I think, classic cars or wine were second. The reality is, it’s out there. I believe the art market goes beyond your top bracket. My people all started saying, “The chairman’s crazy, he’s going to do this,” and they’ve all ended up loving it. “Can I get my bonus in a piece of work?”
The problem with the art world is that they’re a bunch of snobs. The reality is that gallerists make people feel as if they’re not wanted, and I think this is part of the breaking down of what will happen in the next 10 years, more people will want to get involved.
It sounds like Ciclitira is a man with a mission to make that happen.
Note 1 Korean Eye Moon Generation catalogue Page 9, Joon Lee Deputy Director Samsung Museum of Art
Ayoung Kim, Bahk SeonGhi, Boomoon, Cho Hoon, Choi TaeHoon, Choo JongWan, Debbie Han, Han KiChang, Hong KyongTack, Jang SeungHyo, Jeon Junho, Kang Hyung Koo, Kim Inbai, Kim Joon, Koh MyungKeun, Kwon KiSoo, Lee Dongwook, Lee HyungKoo, Lee LeeNam, Lee Rim, Lee Ufan. Lee Yong Baek, Lee YongDeok. Park JungHyuk, Park SeungMo, Park SungTae, SeungMin Lee, Sim SeungWook, Whang Inkie, Yi HwanKwon, Yoon Jong Seok
- Art Dubai – Who sold what to whom? – Mar 09 – Dubai Royal family buying Korean art
- Troubles for Korean art at home, better reception abroad – Jan 09 – Fakes exposed, fires, forged credentials by a museum director at Samsung Museum resulting in a prison sentence, misused budgets and new taxes hit the home market but Korean galleries open in Beijing and New York, Korean auction houses in HK.
- 13 Korean artists in Singapore Art Museum – Dec 08 – This IHT piece gives an overview of the development of the main movements in modern and contemporary art since the 1950s
- Korean contemporary art spread through Asia threatened by meltdown – Sep 08