KIAF Seoul 2021 begins amid high hopes for art market - Korea Times
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KIAF Seoul 2021 begins amid high hopes for art market

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"Recurrence SH 2013016" (2011) by Kim Tschang-Yeul / Courtesy of Gallery Hyundai

By Park Han-sol

The Korea International Art Fair (KIAF) Seoul, the largest of its kind in the country since 2002, opened its doors on Wednesday with a VVIP preview session at COEX in southern Seoul.

This year's edition has been highly anticipated among art enthusiasts, as it is expected to continue the streak of success achieved by other local art fairs held earlier ― including the Galleries Art Fair, the Busan Annual Market of Art (BAMA), Art Busan and Plastic Art Seoul (PLAS).

These events all saw record turnouts and sales this year amid surging public interest in the art market and a subsequent influx of new, young collectors.

The event's organizer, the Galleries Association of Korea, said that the limited number of 100 tickets for Wednesday's exclusive VVIP previews ― each priced at 300,000 won ($250) ― sold out in two days, with the majority of the buyers being in their 30s and 40s. After the preview sessions, the fair will be open to the general public from Friday to Sunday.

KIAF Seoul has also started gaining more attention from galleries both here and abroad, most notably due to the launching of its five-year-long partnership with the renowned Frieze Art Fair, starting in September of next year. The partnership will make Seoul the first Asian host of Frieze, a leading global platform for modern and contemporary art.

In fact, compared to previous years, the organizer saw more than a 30-percent increase in the number of galleries that applied to set up their booths this year, amounting to nearly 300, according to Do Hyung-teh, the deputy head of the association.

"Tree of Life #8" (2020) by David Salle / Courtesy of the artist and Skarstedt, New York, Lehmann Maupin, Hong Kong, Seoul and London

At COEX, some 170 galleries from 10 countries will showcase paintings, sculptures and media works. Major participants from the domestic art scene include Gana Art, Gallery Hyundai, Kukje Gallery, Arario Gallery and PKM Gallery.

With Seoul being seen as a rising Asian hub in the global art market, a number of prominent overseas galleries ― Lehmann Maupin, Perrotin, Tang Contemporary Art, Spruth Magers and Pace ― will return to the fair this year.

Ahead of its joint showcase with Frieze next year, KIAF Seoul will invite Victoria Siddall, the current board director of Frieze, as one of its online guest speakers, to share the vision of the two organizations' partnership and Seoul's potential as a major destination for the art market in Asia.

"Seoul can rise to become the center of the Asian art market," Hwang Dal-seung, chair of the Galleries Association of Korea, said at the recent press conference, adding that a heated competition is taking place which could shift the base of the Asian art market from the current hubs of Hong Kong, Shanghai, Taipei or Singapore, to Seoul.

"I believe that the Korean art market could grow at least five times its current size, which will be a chance to introduce even more domestic artists to the international scene."

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