Located a stones throw from the famed Haeundae Beach, popularised in Korean cinema and countless K-dramas, Art Busan 2016 conveyed a leisurely air brought on by the first warm days of spring. Now in its fifth edition, the fair has grown into a sizeable event showcasing some of the best works in the region. With over 190 participating galleries across 19 countries, as well as a slew of special projects, talks and affiliated events, the fair promised to be more than a commercial venture. Below we summarise some of the top booths we visited at Art Busan 2016.
313 Art Project, Seoul
Centrally located within the exhibition hall which the fair is housed in, 313 Art Project’s booth demanded attention with its bold presentation of large-scale installations by Daniel Buren. Activated by the reflection of surrounding movements, the works playfully engaged with the notion of space. The artist, who insists the series achieves completion only upon viewer participation, surely would be pleased to witness how the many reflective surfaces of the works—a clear favourite with the ‘selfie-grammers—gave way to a great deal of viewer engagement.
Established in 2010, 313 Art Project was founded on the premise of introducing leading contemporary artists to Korean audiences, while presenting emerging Korean talent on a global platform. Besides representing internationally respected contemporary artists such as Daniel Buren and Wan Lee, in 2013 the gallery organised the first solo exhibition of Sophie Calle in Asia.
Gallery Hyundai, Seoul
As one of the foremost pioneering contemporary art establishments in Korea, Gallery Hyundai has been showing leading artists since its founding in 1970. Formerly known as 현대화랑Hyundai Hwarang – ‘Hyundai’ meaning ‘contemporary’ and ‘Hwarang’ meaning ‘gallery’ — the gallery is acknowledged for not only being the first, but also the only space that was dedicated to promoting the work of emerging artists during the 1970s.
An early supporter of Korean monochrome painting, Gallery Hyundai was the first to represent key Dansaekhwa artists such as Lee Ufan, Yun Hyong-keun and Chung Sang-hwa. As early as 1987, Gallery Hyundai participated in numerous art fairs, introducing leading figures in contemporary art to both national and international audiences. For Art Busan 2016, Gallery Hyundai continues this trend with a presentation of works by Chung Sang-hwa, Kim Tschang-Yeul, Park Seo-bo and Bernar Venet. Particularly enthralling was the black Chung Sang-hwa painting which impressively occupied an entire wall. Hung next to the Choe U-Ram light work installed in a corner of the booth that had been especially painted black, the two works complimented one another beautifully.
Johyun Gallery, Busan & Seoul
Observing the crowds on opening night, it was evident that painting and sculpture still captivate most fair-goers. With that in mind, Johyun Gallery drew healthy crowds, intriguing visitors with works by critically acclaimed Korean designer and artist, Kwangho Lee. On display were works from the designer’s ongoing Obsession series, which applies traditional knitting methods with less conventional materials such as nylon, leather and PVC hoses to produce sculptural yet functional objects. Complemented by a Bernard Frize painting on one wall and Jo Jongsung’s drawings on the other, Kwangho Lee’s Bench, Stool (grey), and Stool (black), 2015, provided viewers with a space to pause and reflect amidst the frenzy of the fair.
With locations in both Busan and Seoul, Johyun Gallery’s programming reflects key moments in Korean modern art history, as well as introducing internationally acclaimed artists to Korean audiences, having organised the first Korean solo presentation of artists including Bernard Frize, Susan Derges, Thierry Feuz and Peter Zimmermann, among others.
Kukje Gallery, Seoul
A major player in the Korean contemporary art scene, Kukje Gallery has been producing exhibitions to critical acclaim since the early 1980s. For Art Busan 2016, the gallery featured a selection of works by well-established artists like Anish Kapoor, Jean-Michel Othoniel, Lee Ufan, Candida Höfer, Julian Opie and Gabriel Kuri. Impeccably curated under the guidance of Director Hyun-Sook Lee’s discerning eye, their booth was the definition of sophistication, both in the calibre of works and their presentation.
With three exhibition spaces in Seoul and a robust stable of artists, the gallery’s reputation for excellent programming is unparalleled. Recent shows that have received praise include Black Lotus, a series of new work contemplating the symbolism of flowers by Jean-Michel Othoniel, as well as Le Corbusier, Pierre Jeanneret: Chandigarh, India, 1951-66, which reviewed design contributions made in 1951 by the Swiss-Franco architect Pierre Jeanneret, for the capital city of Chandigarh following India’s independence from Britain four years earlier.
Park Ryu Sook, Seoul & Jeju Island
Initially charmed by the Choi Jeong Hwa installation, it was Somebody-009, 2014, by Kim Joon, that ultimately proved the most captivating work at Park Ryu Sook’s booth. The work is part of a series of digital prints entitled Somebody, and it investigates notions of ‘hidden desire,’ posited by the artist as a universal condition. Using 3D Studio Max technology, Kim Joon digitally renders tattoos, animal skins, leather, among other various animate and inanimate textures onto disembodied limbs. The computer-generated bodies are used as canvases to project and transpose conflicts of desire by way of juxtaposing severe mutations of the human form with slick, glossy surfaces associated with high-fashion editorial spreads. Using the symbolism of tattoos—still very much a taboo in Korean society—as a means to imply deviance, dissent and desire, the work seemed to be self-reflexive—questioning, and in doing so, affirming its aesthetic and cultural value.
Since 1983, Park Ryu Sook Gallery has contributed to the contemporary art scene, both in South Korea and abroad, participating in countless international art fairs. Based in Gangnam, Seoul, the gallery also has a second space in Jeju Island. —[O]