Ocula Magazine   |   Insights   |   Art Fair

Celebrating its 20th anniversary this year, Kiaf Seoul (15–17 October 2021) will present over 170 galleries from China, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Iran, Israel, Japan, South Korea, Spain, and the United States.

Kiaf Seoul Marks 20th Anniversary with an International Outlook

Exhibition view: Kiaf Art Seoul (26–29 September 2019). Courtesy Kiaf Art Seoul. Photo: Kiaf Art Seoul Operating Committee.

After a pandemic-induced transition online in 2020, an online viewing room will continue to extend the show's reach beyond the fair's long-time COEX Hall venue, where it will return this year, with galleries based in and out of Korea set to bring an extensive range of international contemporary art.

Exhibition view: We Connect Art & Future, Kiaf And Incheon Airport, Incheon International Airport, Seoul (27 September–22 October 2021).

Exhibition view: We Connect Art & Future, Kiaf And Incheon Airport, Incheon International Airport, Seoul (27 September–22 October 2021). Courtesy KIAF.

Arario Gallery will show Subodh Gupta and Kohei Nawa, while Sprüth Mager's booth will feature the likes of George Condo, Barbara Kruger, Gary Hume, and Jenny Holzer. Pace Gallery and Perrotin will hold a solo presentation of Takashi Murakami, and Pace will exhibit 12 artists including Loie Hollowell, Mary Corse, Sam Gilliam, Alexander Calder, and Alicja Kwade.

Exhibition view: We Connect Art & Future, Kiaf And Incheon Airport, Incheon International Airport, Seoul (27 September–22 October 2021).

Exhibition view: We Connect Art & Future, Kiaf And Incheon Airport, Incheon International Airport, Seoul (27 September–22 October 2021). Courtesy KIAF.

Since its inception in 2002, when Kiaf was staged in Busan before moving to Seoul the following year, Kiaf has been committed to promoting contemporary Korean art to a wider international audience while responding to the discourses and shifts in the global art market.

Suh Seung Won, Simultaneity 73–17 (1973). Oil on canvas. 116 x 116 cm.

Suh Seung Won, Simultaneity 73–17 (1973). Oil on canvas. 116 x 116 cm. Courtesy PKM Gallery.

Between 2006 and 2016, specially organised exhibitions presented regional and national focuses, reflecting a desire to forge ties with the international art world and engage in ongoing discourses surrounding contemporary art and its markets.

These included Against Insularity: Selling Art in Australia in 2011, Contemporary Art of Latin America, The Rising Star of the Global Market in 2012, and The State of Southeast Asian Contemporary Art And Its Market in 2014.

Chris Watts, Witnessing presence (2021). Tempera, resin, pigment, lapis lazuli, polyester chiffon, found wood. 119.3 x 149.8 cm.

Chris Watts, Witnessing presence (2021). Tempera, resin, pigment, lapis lazuli, polyester chiffon, found wood. 119.3 x 149.8 cm. Courtesy Bode Projects.

Since 2017, Kiaf has shifted its focus onto galleries and artists, introducing new sectors to the fair floor including HIGHLIGHT, in which galleries showcase a small selection of artists who are new on the scene or deserve re-introductions; and single-artist exhibitions in SOLO PROJECT, which returns this year.

Dariush Hosseini, Wide Shut 7 (2018). Acrylic on canvas. 140 x 140 cm.

Dariush Hosseini, Wide Shut 7 (2018). Acrylic on canvas. 140 x 140 cm. Courtesy SARADIPOUR ART.

This year's SOLO PROJECT includes Iranian artist Dariush Hosseini at SARADIPOUR ART, whose acrylic painting series 'Wide Shut' (2016–2019) hints at textures of nature, be it the rough strokes of brown evoking tree bark (Wide Shut 7, 2018) or sprigs of yellow resembling a field of flowers (Wide Shut 6, 2019).

Hosseini's concerns, however, are less concerned with representations of nature than with creating abstracted, flat, and pattern-like forms that proliferate beyond the canvas.

Dariush Hosseini, Wide Shut 6 (2019). Acrylic on canvas. 175 x 175 cm.

Dariush Hosseini, Wide Shut 6 (2019). Acrylic on canvas. 175 x 175 cm. Courtesy SARADIPOUR ART.

Also at SOLO PROJECT will be new works by American artist Chris Watts, shown by Bode Projects, who paints on found pieces of wood, silk, and polyester chiffon.

Kiaf has been committed to promoting contemporary Korean art to a wider international audience while responding to the discourses and shifts in the global art market.

Though based on footage of police violence towards Black bodies, reality is abstracted into blurs of colours in an allusion to the social and historical erasure of Black people in the United States. Only movement, suggested by swipes of paint in the case of Melodies from heaven (2021), replicates the force of the original videos.

Chris Watts, Melodies from heaven (2021). Tempera, oil, acrylic, resin, pigment, interference, lapis lazuli, poly-chiffon, found wood. 119.3 x 149.8 cm.

Chris Watts, Melodies from heaven (2021). Tempera, oil, acrylic, resin, pigment, interference, lapis lazuli, poly-chiffon, found wood. 119.3 x 149.8 cm. Courtesy Bode Projects.

Dansaekhwa, a style of abstract Korean painting that came to international attention in 2014, continues to have a considerable presence at Kiaf.

PKM Gallery, one of five partner galleries that collaborated with MMCA Seoul and MUVE to stage Yun Hyong-keun in Venice in 2019, will present Yun Hyong-keun's umber-and-blue paintings alongside Suh Seung-Won's 'Simultaneity' paintings that explore the balance of the visible and invisible. Suh's early and recent works are also on view at the gallery's Seoul location until 9 October 2021.

Yun Hyong-keun, Burnt Umber & Ultramarine (1992). Oil on linen. 53.4 x 72.8 cm.

Yun Hyong-keun, Burnt Umber & Ultramarine (1992). Oil on linen. 53.4 x 72.8 cm. Courtesy PKM Gallery.

Presentations of artists working in and outside Korea reflect the balance that Kiaf maintains between the promotion of contemporary Korean art and the fair's international expansion. In 2018, for example, Kiaf collaborated with the Gwangju Biennale to stage ARTIST PROJECT, an exhibition of installations by four biennial artists—Lais Myrrah, Mark Salvatus, Kim Ayoung, and Sung Hong Min.

This year, Kiaf has worked with the Incheon International Airport to organise We Connect Art & Future, Kiaf And Incheon Airport, a group exhibition of 70 works from 20 participating Korean galleries, among them Keumsan Gallery, Wooson Gallery, Kukje Gallery, Gallery Hyundai, Gana Art, and Yoon Gallery.

Exhibition view: We Connect Art & Future, Kiaf And Incheon Airport, Incheon International Airport, Seoul (27 September–22 October 2021).

Exhibition view: We Connect Art & Future, Kiaf And Incheon Airport, Incheon International Airport, Seoul (27 September–22 October 2021). Courtesy KIAF.

Wooson Gallery will be showing recent drawings and prints, as well as a painting by Munich-based Korean artist Yi Youjin, who seeks to generate non-hierarchical spaces in which ambiguities and uncertainties abound. Amorphous figures, animals, and suggestions of foliage frequent her work, such as the yellow outline of a solitary figure in Blue Background (2017).

Exhibition view: We Connect Art & Future, Kiaf And Incheon Airport, Incheon International Airport, Seoul (27 September–22 October 2021).

Exhibition view: We Connect Art & Future, Kiaf And Incheon Airport, Incheon International Airport, Seoul (27 September–22 October 2021). Courtesy KIAF.

Gana Art's presentation will include a painting by Ro Eun Nim, another artist based in Germany, entitled Der Besuch (2017). Favouring a simple colour palette of red, black, and white, Ro paints in equally simple and unhesitating strokes to give life to the constituents of nature, in particular insects and birds, by endowing them with eyes, rendered swiftly as circles of white.

Lee Kwang-Ho, Untitled 2366 (2020). Oil on canvas. 130.3 x 162.2 cm.

Lee Kwang-Ho, Untitled 2366 (2020). Oil on canvas. 130.3 x 162.2 cm. Courtesy the artist and Kukje Gallery. Photo: Jeon Byung Cheol.

By contrast, Kukje Gallery will bring the hyperrealistic paintings of Lee Kwang-Ho, known for larger-than-life depictions of cacti as well as still lifes and landscapes. A field of yellow grass is partially covered in snow in Untitled 2366 (2020), perhaps heralding the end of winter and the arrival of a new season.

Reflecting on 20 years of Kiaf, We Connect Art & Future considers the future of the fair in the context of the airport that is central to its operation: a gesture that envisions South Korea as an international gateway. —[O]

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