South Korea

Seoul Art Guide

Korea's capital city for more than 600 years, Seoul is today the nation's cultural centre, housing many museums, galleries, and exhibition venues. The National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art (MMCA Seoul) lies at its heart, located next to the historical site of Gyeongbokgung Palace, which served as the main royal palace in the Joseon period (1392–1910). With its main branch based in Gwacheon, Gyeonggi-do, the MMCA Seoul opened in 2013 with the mission to deliver modern and contemporary art to the public. Some of the iconic artists to have been exhibited at MMCA Seoul include Marcel Duchamp, Yun Hyong-keun, Choi Jeong Hwa, Shirin Neshat, and William Kentridge. The MMCA is also the site of prestigious awards such as the MMCA Hyundai Motor Series, dedicated to pioneering Korean artists, and the Korea Artist Prize.

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From Gyeongbokgung, take Seoul's Metro or—on a nice day—a ten- to twenty-minute walk to galleries in the nearby Samcheong District, also known as 'gallery street'. Kumho Museum of Art, founded in 1989 to promote Korean art, houses the works of artists who have shaped modern Korean art—including Nam June Paik, Lee Ufan, and Kim Whanki—as well as emerging Korean artists. Since the mid-2000s, Kumho has also focused its programme on design and architecture.

Gallery Hyundai, which stands right next to Kumho, was founded in 1970 by the pioneering gallerist Park Myung-ja. One of the first galleries to introduce abstract art to Korea, Gallery Hyundai represents leading Korean artists Kang Ik-Joong, Kwon Young-Woo, and Moon Kyungwon, amongst others, as well as international artists such as Iván Navarro and Robert Indiana.

Some of the leading contemporary galleries in the world can be found in Samcheong district as well. Kukje Gallery, founded in 1982, is known for its roster of Korean and international artists including Anish Kapoor, Bill Viola, Candida Höfer, Gimhongsok, Haegue Yang, and Kimsooja. Arario Gallery, which opened in 1989, has been innovative in introducing Indian and Southeast Asian artists to Korea. A regular presence in Frieze New York and Art Basel in Hong Kong since the early 2000s, PKM Gallery has exhibited Lee Bul, Olafur Eliasson, Bruce Nauman, and Katie Paterson, among others.

Other galleries are scattered throughout Seoul. One of the first major art galleries to open in Korea, Gana Art is a chief Korean and Asian contemporary art gallery noted for its public art projects. ONE AND J. Gallery, in Jongno District, was founded in 2005 and is dedicated to contemporary artists, among them Suyoung Kim, Min Ha Park, and New Zealand-based Seung Yul Oh. CHOI&LAGER Gallery was founded by Sunhee Choi and Jari Lager, and established a Seoul outpost in 2016.

Those wanting to experience contemporary Korean culture alongside art may venture to Seoul Museum of Art (SeMA), located in the former building of the Supreme Court of Korea and offering public exhibitions that address social issues. Designed by the acclaimed architect Zaha Hadid, Dongdaemun Design Plaza's diverse exhibition programme encompasses design, fashion, and art, both Korean and international.

Some of Seoul's privately-run art museums are also worthwhile for their vast collections. Leeum Samsung Museum of Art, which opened in 2004, houses 36 pieces that are recognised as national treasures. Its buildings are designed by the architects Jean Nouvel, Rem Koolhaas, and Mario Botta.


Current Exhibition | Seoul
29 July–20 August 2020
Woo Tae Kyung

Painting of Drawings

Gallery Chosun View Exhibition
Exhibition View: Woo Tae Kyung, Painting of Drawings, Gallery Chosun, Seoul (29 July–20 August 2020). Courtesy Gallery Chosun.
Painting of Drawings
Current Exhibition | Seoul
23 July–4 September 2020
Group Exhibition

Healing

Perrotin View Exhibition
Chiho Aoshima, Poke-chan, Warm and Fuzzy (2020). Ceramic. 30 × 20 × 36 cm. ©2020 Chiho Aoshima/Kaikai Kiki Co., Ltd. All Rights Reserved. Courtesy Perrotin.
Healing
Current Exhibition | Seoul
7 July–15 August 2020
Han Jin, Hyun Bhin Kwon, Jong Oh

Haven of Light

P21 View Exhibition
Haven of Light
Current Exhibition | Seoul
3 July–7 August 2020
Yoon Suk One

Enfolding Landscape

Gallery Baton View Exhibition
Yoon Suk One, Enfolding Landscape at Gallery Baton, Seoul (3 July – 7 August 2020). Courtesy of the Artist, Gallery Baton.
Enfolding Landscape
Current Exhibition | Seoul
2 July–14 August 2020
Group Exhibition

Inside Out: The Body Politic

Lehmann Maupin View Exhibition
Exhibition view: Group Exhibition, Inside Out: The Body Politic, Lehmann Maupin, Seoul (2 July–14 August 2020). Courtesy Lehmann Maupin, New York, Hong Kong, and Seoul. Photo: OnArt Studio.
Inside Out: The Body Politic
Current Exhibition | Seoul
25 June–15 August 2020
Insane Park
Arario Gallery View Exhibition
Insane Park
Current Exhibition | Seoul
5 June–14 August 2020
Group Exhibition

Bending Light

Pace Gallery View Exhibition
James Turrell, Atlantis, Medium Rectangle Glass (2019). L.E.D. light, etched glass and shallow space. 142.2 cm × 185.4 cm. © James Turrell. Courtesy Pace Gallery.
Bending Light

Current Exhibitions In Seoul

View All Past Exhibitions (327)
Contemporary art exhibition, Woo Tae Kyung, Painting of Drawings at Gallery Chosun, Seoul
29 July–20 August 2020 Woo Tae Kyung Painting of Drawings Gallery ChosunSeoul
Contemporary art exhibition, Group Exhibition, Healing at Perrotin, Seoul
23 July–4 September 2020 Group Exhibition Healing PerrotinSeoul
Contemporary art exhibition, Han Jin, Hyun Bhin Kwon, Jong Oh, Haven of Light at P21, Seoul
7 July–15 August 2020 Han Jin, Hyun Bhin Kwon, Jong Oh Haven of Light P21Seoul
Contemporary art exhibition, Yoon Suk One, Enfolding Landscape at Gallery Baton, Seoul
3 July–7 August 2020 Yoon Suk One Enfolding Landscape Gallery BatonSeoul
Contemporary art exhibition, Group Exhibition, Inside Out: The Body Politic at Lehmann Maupin, Seoul
2 July–14 August 2020 Group Exhibition Inside Out: The Body Politic Lehmann MaupinSeoul
Contemporary art exhibition, Insane Park, Insane Park at Arario Gallery, Seoul
25 June–15 August 2020 Insane Park Arario GallerySeoul
Contemporary art exhibition, Group Exhibition, Bending Light at Pace Gallery, Seoul
5 June–14 August 2020 Group Exhibition Bending Light Pace GallerySeoul

Ocula Member Galleries In Seoul

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Arario Gallery contemporary art gallery in Seoul, South Korea Arario Gallery Cheonan, Seoul, Shanghai
Baik Art contemporary art gallery in Seoul, South Korea Baik Art Los Angeles, Seoul
Choi&Lager Gallery contemporary art gallery in Seoul, South Korea Choi&Lager Gallery Cologne, Seoul
Kukje Gallery contemporary art gallery in Seoul, South Korea Kukje Gallery Busan, Seoul
Lehmann Maupin contemporary art gallery in Seoul, South Korea Lehmann Maupin New York, Hong Kong, Seoul
One And J.+1 contemporary art gallery in One and J.+1, South Korea One And J.+1 Seoul
P21 contemporary art gallery in Seoul, South Korea P21 Seoul
Pace Gallery contemporary art gallery in Seoul, South Korea Pace Gallery New York, London, Geneva, Palo Alto, Hong Kong, Seoul, Beijing
Perrotin contemporary art gallery in Seoul, South Korea Perrotin Hong Kong, New York, Paris, Seoul, Shanghai, Tokyo
PKM Gallery contemporary art gallery in Seoul, South Korea PKM Gallery Seoul
Whistle contemporary art gallery in Seoul, South Korea Whistle Seoul

Contemporary Institutions In Seoul

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Seoul In Ocula Magazine

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Hyungkoo Lee: Seriously Fake Science Ocula Conversation Hyungkoo Lee: Seriously Fake Science By Sherry Paik, Seoul

Korean artist Hyungkoo Lee 's exhibitions evoke a scientist's lab or an archaeologist's workshop, often equipped with outlandish gadgets, skeletal or anatomical models in vitrines, or a desk with incomplete skulls, brushes, and notes. Yet his wearable devices, drawings, and sculptures hardly depict real-life subjects—they are chimeras borne...

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Sunjung Kim’s Real DMZ Project Interrogates the North and South Korea Divide Ocula Conversation Sunjung Kim’s Real DMZ Project Interrogates the North and South Korea Divide By Sherry Paik, Seoul

Ongoing since 2012, the Real DMZ Project interrogates the demilitarised zone (DMZ) between North and South Korea through annual, research-based exhibitions that bring together the works of Korean and international artists. Sunjung Kim, the independent curator behind the project, conceived the idea of exploring the DMZ while curating Japanese...

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Nicholas Hlobo at Lehmann Maupin, Seoul Ocula Insight Nicholas Hlobo at Lehmann Maupin, Seoul By Ocula IGTV

South African artist Nicholas Hlobo 's signature materials of rubber, ribbon, leather, and wood were all present in his first solo exhibition in Korea, held between 21 March and 18 May 2019 in Seoul. It comprised new and recent paintings along with a sculpture of copper piping titled Dyumpu (2019), each piece reflecting the artist's...

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Iván Navarro Ocula Conversation Iván Navarro By Stephanie Bailey, Seoul

There are layers, and there are pieces where you don't necessarily see these layers, but they are present because they are things that I have always been interested in.

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Recent Events In Seoul

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Contemporary art exhibition, KIAF/14  at Ocula Private Sales & Advisory, London
25–29 September 2014 KIAF/14
Contemporary art exhibition, G-Seoul 2014 at Ocula Private Sales & Advisory, London
8–11 May G-Seoul 2014
Contemporary art exhibition, KIAF/13 at Ocula Private Sales & Advisory, London
3–7 October 2013 KIAF/13

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