Running from Oct 3-7, the Korea Gallery Association hosted the 17th edition of the vibrant Korean International Art Fair.
TEXT: CoBo Editorial Force
IMAGES: Courtesy of Korea Gallery Association
Established in 2002, the fair has grown considerably, now showcasing 174 regional and international galleries and drawing in art collectors from all over the world. This year’s installment attracted 63,000 visitors to COEX in Seoul.
Powerhouse collecting duo, Sylvain and Dominique Levy’s addition to the organising committee of the fair is a testament to the calibre and attention it is receiving from the international art world. To further illustrate the fair’s international presence, KIAF has an impressive program of talks on a range of art topics as well asnotable inclusion of big league newcomers in their exhibitor roster: David Zwirner and Pace Gallery from the United States, France’s Perrotin Galerie, Hong Kong’s Massimo De Carlo, Spain’s Pigment Gallery and Japan’s Inoue Gallery. Also on the list are Arte Alto, Sasha D. Espacio de Arte and LGM, all from Latin America.
This year, the fair brings back ARTIST PROJECT, a collaboration with this year’s Gwangju Biennale in which KIAF features installations from four artists participating in this year’s biennale. Featuring installation artworks by Lais Myrrha (Brazil), Mark Salvatus (Philippines), Ayoung Kim (Korea), and Sunghong Min (Korea) the special exhibition showcases new works that dialogue with the socio-political climate of today’s world.
Highlighting the undeniable growth of KIAF into a legitimate art fair institution in the international arena, visitors were able to enjoy blue chip artwork brought in by gallery stalwarts. This year, there were 44 galleries from overseas.
A gleaming Anish Kapoor mesmerized people who walked into Kukje Gallery. As the light played with the shallowly concave surface, shadows flitted from left to right off the bruised hues of a deep green and mottled purple horizon. Gallery Hyundai brought in an array of Ivan Navarro’s conceptual works which displayed statements in fluorescent light, nestled in mirrored boxes, playing on the ideas of time and space. Perrotin’s unveiling of Daniel Arsham’s crystal infused, crumbling, cartoon sculptures received a generous amount of buzz. Pace represented Kenneth Noland and Song Dong’s prismatic paintings and sculptures, respectively. Massimo de Carlo’s series of Roland Flexner marbled and monochrome works on paper flew off the walls – the list goes on, echoing the momentum that fair participants excitedly experienced throughout the duration of the fair – and underlining Korean collectors’ appetite for high profile, historically relevant pieces to add to their collections.
That said, despite different countries coming to play in Seoul, KIAF remains largely a fair for the best of modern and contemporary art in Korea. 114 out of the 174 galleries were galleries from around Korea, committed to showing the leading and most exciting creative offerings of the region. There is no over-globalisation in KIAF, organisers stating that they consciously limited outside participation to 50 slots and keeping focus on the Korean art scene.
The coming together of the spirited and pop-leaning sensibilities of younger Korean artists and the signature elegance and sophistication of Korean master artists was a strong thread that weaved throughout the gallery booths in the fair. It was a delight to be visually stimulated and then soothed by the myriad of artist MOs- a unique aspect to KIAF. Fairs have the tendency to overstimulate and oversaturate viewers, but with the balm of dansaekhwa works from Park Seobo, Chung Sang-Hwa and the other greats are in abundance, there is little chance for fair fatigue.
Baiksong Gallery showed a masterfully curated booth by exhibiting Kim Byung Jin’s gigantic ring sculptures made out of iron and car paint, juxtaposed with the quiet restraint of a looming Lee Ufan, delicately gilded in a minimalistic frame, white space revering that precious gradient stroke of paint.
Jae Yong Kim’s Donut Madness installation returns, a sweeping wall of technicolour ceramic donuts, was displayed in Gallery Yeh’s booth, providing an interesting foil to the larger than life versions from the artist. It was a fun and lighthearted showstopper, with many visitors stopping to linger and take photos.
Several Nam June Paik’s creations were dotted throughout the fair, the frenetic screens blitzing through stacked wood and metal appendages a signature aesthetic from the artist who’s pushed the genre of video art to pioneering heights. Along with these pieces, an unexpected and memorable work from Paik was found in Galerie Bhak’s booth, a series of oil paintings done in the 90s, featuring hieroglyphic strokes and swirls in contrasting colours. The surprising analog nature of the work is a refreshing perspective to artist’s body of work.
All in all, KIAF 2018 is a striking amalgamation of Korea’s cultural narratives that have started to permeate the interest of the rest of the art world. It is also a market that galleries could cleverly and strategically steer future plans towards – the fair has recorded the value of this year’s art sales as approximately 25 million USD, showing with a healthy curiosity and participation in art collecting. Most importantly, it is a celebration of dedication and determination in cultivating Seoul’s presence in the international art world while still being tethered true to its roots.