Marvelous to witness an emerging trend materialize in the international art scene. As world events may loudly or subtly distract others, South Korean artists are taking their place in the art world with steady grace, bold visions and are earning respect in the market.
I recently talked about international art markets with Heashin Kwak, director of Hanmi Gallery in London and Seoul, South Korea; Roger Washington, based in Paris and founder of Ronewa Art Gallery, an on-line contemporary art gallery and his associate director, Andrea Buckland.
Washington and Buckland, both were impressed with their recent visit to the London Art Fair. Surprisingly, they found the art fair presented “safe” art both in vision and price. Unlike other art fairs, Washington found that the London Art fair was a wonderful opportunity for new collectors to enter the sometimes over the top and bold art market. With more accessibility, more affordable prices and artistic visions more compatible with a larger market, Washington found that this combination attracts more people to inquire, investigate and ultimately, invest in art. This approach benefits all partners in the art business: the artist, the galleries and the collectors.
In addition, Washington shared this buzz about South Korean artists. One of Washington’s favorite collection of artists is represented by Heashin Kwak, director of Hanmi Gallery, representing South Korean artists in London and in Seoul, South Korea.
Ms. Kwak, joined the conversation via email to share her perspectives on the emerging South Korean artists.
Why do you think South Korean art may be on the edge of the next trend in the global art market for collecting?
“Korean Contemporary Art has established itself as a cutting-edge and thoroughly contemporary essence in the global art arena. Due to Chinese art market boom, Korean Contemporary Art has been also spotlighted as an uprising emerging market. However, Korean Art has been ceaselessly innovating itself and representing its own originality. In the aftermaths of the Korean War, national reconstruction and economic development caused both a disruption and then a subsequent burgeoning of creativity, which has redefined the Korean peninsula as traditional, ancient and eastern, yet international, innovative and modern. Korean art scene has been very vibrant in its own way for some time, but due to the geographical placement of the country it has not been exposed to a wider audience until recently. The country has 625 contemporary art galleries and 142 museums that exhibit contemporary art. We think it’s fair to say interest is on the increase.”
How does the cross cultural (immigrant) artists speak and hear across boundaries?
“Contemporary Korean artistic expression is quite distinct and unique, though has a relative short history. Most of the artists came back from studying abroad, and their work underwent a complicated transition between traditional art and the avant-garde, not to mention the confusion associated with trying to find its identity. Nam June Paik and Lee Ufan were the first generation of Korean artists with international presence. On the heels of the new generation artists, Kim Soo Ja, Do-ho Suh, Lee Bul and Choi Jeong Hwa, dynamic young artists emerge one after the next. The popularity of Korean Contemporary Art also increased due to the establishment of numerous new art centers, galleries and private art museums in Western art world. It seems that Korean Contemporary Art has developed a sense of awareness of its own history and culture and has the potential to lead its own future.”
Would you describe Sangiin Kim’s art and what drew your attention to him?
“Sangjin Kim practices in the rich seam between language and art. In Visibility_the Bible is designed to print the words of the Bible onto the surface of water in which the printed letters dissolve into the liquid as they appear. Its temporality and momentary quality resembles fragility of our belief where often our reality relies upon. Concerned with the human cognitive system, Kim uses sound, time, and language as the main means of representation. His mechanical sculptures are often poetic and challenge the viewer’s perspective on cultural and social authority.
What is next for you?
Hanmi Gallery is an innovative art gallery. My goal is that the gallery represents the finest modern art, contemporary art and design to an international audience, creating a bridge between the Eastern and Western art scenes. We will be dedicated and specialised in Asian contemporary art. In particular, it will advocate Korean art and provide a platform for Korean artists in London as well as introducing emerging British and European art into Asia. The gallery aims to promote interchange and dialogue between the global art arenas.
As the din of one art fair fades, the South Korean artists are making the presence known to collectors who value innovation, vision and art beyond national boundaries.
By Keri Douglas, writer/photographer, Washington, D.C.