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G Seoul 13: International Art Fair

By Mark Waugh  |  Seoul, 2 July 2013

It is no shock that Korea is up whilst the West sleeps. This time-lapse reality incubates some new perspectives. The desire to move forward to new opportunities is everywhere tangible in Korea. In this looking glass world everything is possible even launching a new art fair. In fact this is the third edition of G Seoul organised by Gade with Quintessentially. Located at the Grand Hilton Seoul Convention Centre, G Seoul welcomed a glamorous and enthusiastic opening crowd, and the occasion marked it’s evolution into an internationally focused art fair. 

Over two floors of premium boutique scaled booths are works from the leading galleries in Korea who on their home ground flex their creative muscle with strong group exhibitions. Invited international galleries are showing works by artists as diverse as: Anetta Mona Chisa & Lucia Tkacva, Aki Kuroda, Taryn Simon, Verne Dawson, Chris Offili, Angela Bullock, Jompet Kuswidananto, Laure Prouvost and Elizabeth Price. There are also curated exhibitions, Ways of Seeing: Contemporary Photographic Expressions curated by Jiyoon Lee and The Rise of Hyper Narrative curated by Daehyung Lee.

Of course many of the larger Korean exhibitors such as: Arario Gallery, Kukje Gallery, Gallery Sun Contemporary, Gana Art, Hakgojae, The Page Gallery and Leeahin Gallery already represent both Korean and international artists but the ambition of G Seoul is to give greater exposure to international collectors of Korean artists; and for Korean collectors to view artworks presented by both Korean and international galleries.

Some of the international galleries such as Gagosian Gallery, James Cohan Gallery, MA2, Mori Yu Gallery, Simon Lee Gallery, Victoria Miro Gallery, already have Korean clients but for others such as MOT International, Collectiva, Ark Galerie and Nadi Gallery, Korea is still an unknown market.  As galleries are under increasing pressure to access new markets the art fair is the idiom of choice but as the number of doors opening increases so does the risk of over exposure and breaking new markets is not for the faint hearted.

Early sales included works by both Korean and international artists such as Trans-Rio (Stroke) by Japanese artist Kohei Nawa which sold for $50,000 and Bewitched by Yeondoo Jung. The Indonesian word nadi means aorta, artery, or vein and the huge works on canvas it presented are certainly apposite, such as Akhir Pekanbaru dan Projek Organik Dari Tak Berakar Tak Berpucuk #7, by Handwirman Saputra looks like an aerial view of an archipelago but is in fact a beautifully detailed abstract work.  Also stunning are Arin Dwihartanto Sunaryo's; Ashflow (2013) and Under The Cloud (2013). These are part of a series brought last year by the Guggenheim.

Also from Indonesia is Ark Gallery whose artists have been seen internationally at art fairs and biennials. It’s directed by Ali Swastika who is more familiar with Korea as she was one of the curators of the Gwangju Biennial 2012. Ark presented Jompet Kuswidananto as part if the special G Seoul Solo curated selection and a group exhibition including a haunting black and white acrylic landscape by Andy Dewantoro and Acts of Indecency #4 by the fabulous performance artist Melati Suryodarmo.

No stranger to South East Asia as a market but now a first time visitor to Seoul was the James Cohan Gallery. Arthur Solway, director of it’s Shanghai Gallery presented a fantastic series of water colours by Francesco Clemente, Made in Asia, which contain references to Buddhist philosophy.

Another first time visitor to Seoul is MOT International, who presented the works of Turner Prize winner Elisabeth Price and Nominee, Laure Prouvost. Their works compliment each other perfectly and offer major collectors and museums the opportunity to acquire key works: The Tent (2012) and Swallow (2013). The artists share a poetic precision in their treatment of the moving image. In The Tent, Price renders aesthetic and cultural artefacts as debris of a lucid philosophical critique of the fold and wave formations, or perhaps a eulogy to systems, choreographed to the soundtrack of dissipated youth: Boredom by the Buzzcocks makes a spectacular cameo. It is a work of playful granular density that builds through layered co-ordinates.

Whilst equally rigorous, the works of Prouvost are elliptical flights of semiotic archeology. Her images shot in Italy contour a paradisical and sensual revery, which playfully dusts off words and their meanings. Another British gallery Victoria Miro also presented a group show with works on paper and canvas by Chris Offili, Chantal Joffe, Verne Dawson and John Korner. For local collectors and curators from the major contemporary museums a unique opportunity to see museum quality works by artists not previously shown in Korea.

But for international collectors the most intriguing aspect of G Seoul is the opportunity to properly engage with the dynamic and brilliant works by Korean artists and meet the gallery directors such as Jaeho Jung of Gallery 2.  He says that he took the experience of work for a major auction house and gallery to underpin his own desire to work more closely with artists of his generation who inspired him. The confidence of that relationship is evident in the works on display particularly the delicate botanical wall installation in paper by Suyeon Kim which crawls across the walls.

It is the quality of artists and galleries that is the success of G Seoul13. The easy pairing by Korean galleries (such as Leeahn Gallery) of international artists such as David Salle with Korean artist Lee Nam Lee, shows how the Korean market has matured.

The Gana Art booth has works by Hwan Kwon Yi, Hai Yun Jung, Roy Litchenstein, Richard Pettibone, Lionel Esteve which are installed under a spectacular vintage lighting installation by Sabo. It is quirky and super eclectic and perfectly captures the energy of Seoul. The spectrum of Korean painting is elegantly demonstrated by Hakgojae Gallery who have work from the most well known Korean artist Lee Ufan and a hyper real pile of coloured pens by Kyoung Tack Hong which is smartly titled, Pens. The paintings sit alongside the photography of Yongbaek Lee who represented Korea in the last Venice Biennale. The spectacular and most elegant traits of contemporary Korean art are shown at JJ Jong Jung Gallery. The muted paintings of Korean vases by Young Wook Choi have an ethereality that is also seen in the works Cloud and River by Ding Hee Hong. The largest display by a Korean gallery is Kukje Gallery which as well as showing well known Anish Kapoor, and Julian Opie works; also has arresting works by Koreas emerging stars including Kimsooja, Haegue Yang, Yeondoo Jung, Sungsic Moon, Yeesookyung to name a few. The huge and cuddly, Bearlike Construction (2012) by Gimhongsok is the most spectacular exhibit at G Seoul.

It is the quality of artists and galleries that is the success of G Seoul13. The easy pairing by Korean galleries (such as Leeahn Gallery) of international artists such as David Salle with Korean artist Lee Nam Lee, shows how the Korean market has matured. It’s also interesting to see how the dialogue continues between Japanese and Korean culture. MA2 presents, Round Chair (2013) by Matsubara Ken and works using paraffin wax on paper  by Kim Mitsuo which captivate audiences. Mori Yu Gallery also featured in the G Seoul Solo section with the wild and and playful paintings by Aki Kuroda. Also showing works in the G Seoul Solo section are: Simon Lee Gallery, presenting Angela Bullock, Copper Stack 4 (2012), Gagosian Gallery presenting the poignant and politically charged work; Chapter V A Living Man Declared Dead and Other Chapters I-XVIII (2011) by Taryn Simon; a triptych which explores the political realities of losing loved ones in zones of conflict.

To locate this activity in a global context G Seoul 13 invited presentations on; Emerging Art Markets: China, Middle East and South East Asia with Dr Iain Robertson (Head of Business, Sotheby's Institute of Art), Graham Steele (Director, White Cube Asia) and Patricia Chen (Art Market Analyst, Journalist) and Corporate Art Collection & Creative Collection Management with Alistair Hicks (Curator of Deutsche Bank Collection UK), Savita Apte ( Director of Dubai Art Fair, Platform projects) and Prof. Jaekkyung Lee (School of Law Konkuk University.)

With major sponsors including British Airways, Samsung and The Singapore Freeport and Christies the fair has all the right ingredients to succeed and become one of the major players in South East Asia.

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