|Visitors roam around the sophomore edition of Frieze Seoul at COEX in southern Seoul, Thursday. The global art fair kicked off with a VIP opening, Wednesday, attracting art aficionados from across Asia and around the world, especially those hailing from mainland China, Hong Kong and Southeast Asia with the lifting of COVID-19-related travel restrictions. Yonhap|
By Park Han-sol
Following a splashy debut last year, Frieze Seoul returned to COEX in the ritzy Gangnam District in the southern part of the capital this week to offer another two-for-one art fair experience with its local counterpart Kiaf Seoul.
A VIP opening was held, Wednesday, seeing no shortage of art lovers from across Asia and around the world, especially those hailing from mainland China, Hong Kong and Southeast Asia following the lifting of COVID-19-related travel restrictions.
"We have over 100 museum groups here, (compared to) 25 last year. We have some of the most important curators from around the world. There are lots of American, European, Chinese and Japanese collectors," Frieze CEO Simon Fox noted during a press conference, Thursday.
Attracting over 120 galleries from around the world, with a stronger core of Asia-based exhibitors and those with outposts in the region, the sophomore edition of Frieze Seoul saw more booths run by blue-chip dealers catering to local collectors ― in comparison to last year when they focused on introducing themselves to a new market through more of a "best-of-everything" presentation.
Elaine Kwok, Hauser & Wirth's managing partner for Asia, told The Korea Times that her gallery took a more adventurous approach this year because "the Korean market is also getting more adventurous and incredibly diverse."
"You've got the older, more mature collectors, but you also have lots of young collectors coming in. The booth is a reflection of that," Kwok said.
As a result, the blue-chip dealer decided to put modern masters like Philip Guston and Louise Bourgeois alongside the newest names to join the gallery, including Allison Katz, Angel Otero and Harmony Korine.
By the end of the preview day, over 13 of Hauser & Wirth's pieces of varying value were sold to museums, art centers and private collectors across East Asia, including Rashid Johnson's canvas work for $975,000 and George Condo's creation for $800,000.
|Prominent art dealer Hauser & Wirth showcases Philip Guston's "Combat I" (1978) at its booth at Frieze Seoul, Wednesday. Yonhap|
Perrotin, which opened a new space in Gangnam District last year, focused on bringing a roster of its artists whose works have been exhibited in major museums across Korea in recent years ― Maurizio Cattelan at the Leeum Museum of Art in Seoul, Takashi Murakami at the Busan Museum of Art in Busan and Laurent Grasso at the Jeonnam Museum of Art in South Jeolla Province, among others.
"We wanted to remind the audience and the collectors here that our gallery represents the creatives who have already been featured in prominent institutions in the country and that their pieces are available in the primary market," said Bo Kim, managing director of Perrotin Seoul. Its presentation also includes "dansaekhwa" (monochrome painting) master Park Seo-bo and sculptor Shim Moon-seop ― the Korean artists that the gallery has spotlighted in its other global locations.
Similarly, Lehmann Maupin has put forth its aim to "look back at our long-standing history with South Korea and honor the expanding legacy of our artists," according to Emma Son, senior director of the dealer's Seoul outpost. Historical pieces by avant-garde artist Sung Neung-kyung, paired with contemporary marquee works by Do Ho Suh, Lee Bul and Hong Soun, offer a glimpse into the world of Korean creatives, who make up 10 percent of the gallery's roster.
The powerhouse dealer sold over 15 pieces during the first hours of the fair on Wednesday, partly in thanks to "high demand for works by Korean artists" that included a $190,000 Lee Bul painting.
Other prominent galleries also reported a string of topline sales.
Gladstone Gallery announced that it sold Robert Rauschenberg's painting for $950,000 and Alex Katz's for $750,000, while Lisson Gallery's opening day sales included a canvas work by Stanley Whitney that sold for $550,000.
And it was Seoul-headquartered Kukje Gallery that sold Ha Chong-hyun's piece for between $110,000 and $132,000.
"With no travel restrictions, I noticed that there's much more traffic coming in from people overseas. Last year, many who came to the fair were professionals ― journalists, critics, dealers, advisers and curators," Hauser & Wirth's Kwok said.
"This year, you have private collectors who are here to check out the art scene, those who have never been to private museums in Seoul and want to see them, and then those who are here just for the party. All of that together is what makes the scene exciting and dynamic."
|Visitors look at Jeff Koons' 'Gazing Ball (Centaur and Lapith Maiden)' (2013), exhibited by U.K.-based Robilant+Voena, during a VIP preview for Frieze Seoul, Wednesday. Korea Times photo by Park Han-sol|
Global attention on Korean art
Like last year, Frieze Masters, one of the fair's feature sections, offered a curated peek into the millennia-spanning collection that remains significant in global art history ― from an eighth-century Japanese Buddhist manuscript to Lucio Fontana's 1960s "Spatial Concept" painting with an estimated value of $3 million.
The Korean masters spotlighted in the section include Gallery Hyundai's Rhee Seund-ja, a pioneering female abstract artist who has been the subject of renewed global attention after her "Subitement la Loi (A Sudden Law)" set the auction record at Christie's Hong Kong last year.
Do Hyung-teh, president of Gallery Hyundai, noted that more than five prominent museum representatives from around the world came to inquire about Rhee's paintings within an hour on the preview day. The dealer later announced that it sold a variety of her works ranging from $9,000 to $450,000.
|Seoul-based Gallery Hyundai spotlights the pioneering oeuvre of Rhee Seund-ja, a first-generation Korean female abstract artist, at its booth at Frieze Seoul, Wednesday. Newsis|
Focus Asia, a feature section unique to Frieze Seoul, also returned to showcase groundbreaking solo presentations put forth by 10 emerging Asia-based galleries.
Among the highlighted artists is Yutaka Kikutake Gallery's Yuko Mohri, whose delicate kinetic installation was featured at this year's Gwangju Biennale curated by Lee Sook-kyung. The two will unite once again next year at the Japanese Pavilion for the 60th edition of the Venice Biennale.
|"The Great Ballroom" by Woo Hannah, whose organically-shaped fabric installations earned her the fair's inaugural Artist Award, hangs from the ceiling of COEX, Wednesday. Korea Times photo by Park Han-sol|
The Artist Award and the newfound recognition that came with it have also "opened up a new chapter" in Woo's artistic practice, prompting her to incorporate hard materials like aluminum to make her latest fabric sculptures stand upright for the first time to "represent a sense of independence," the gallery's curator Lee Su-young explained.
As a platform, Focus Asia has already proven to be a creative stage with a lot of potential. The section is what allowed two of its participants last year ― Seoul-based Whistle and Jakarta-based ROH ― to link up and organize a joint booth at the fair this year.
Putting the four Korean creatives in dialogue with their four Indonesian counterparts at the shared booth marks the start of the two galleries' series of collaborative projects to come, according to Whistle's deputy director Kim Soo-hyun.
"Our artist Hyun Nahm will be heading to Jakarta soon to participate in the residency exchange program and hold a solo show in the Indonesian capital," she said, adding that the two dealers plan to host more exchange programs and joint exhibitions in the future.
|Seoul-based Whistle and Jakarta-based ROH, last year's participants of Frieze Seoul's Focus Asia section, have organized a joint booth at the fair this year. Korea Times photo by Park Han-sol|
Running alongside Frieze on the first floor of COEX is Kiaf Seoul, Korea's longest-running contemporary art fair. Its 22nd edition is scheduled to run until Sunday, a day longer than its counterpart.
With a strengthened focus on spotlighting young, dynamic creatives and their new works to differentiate itself from Frieze, the fair has not only invited more Korean galleries in its roster of 210 for "a more balanced representation," but has also staged a satellite art fair Kiaf Plus with 30 emerging dealers as well as a curated show of 10 Korean new media artists and collectives.
Meanwhile, its special exhibition, "Hometown to the Unadulterated Colors," brings to the forefront the underappreciated history of Korean polychrome paintings through the works of two masters, Park Re-hyun and Park Saeng-kwang.