Seoul Art Week Is Set to Be Busier Than Ever—Here Are 5 Exhibitions You Won’t Want to Miss

Galleries, auction houses, and museums are flexing their curatorial muscles this week in the South Korean capital.

Suh Yongsun "My Name is Red" exhibition installation view, courtesy of Art Sonje Center. Photography Cheolki Hong ⓒ 2023. Art Sonje Center all rights reserved.

For thousands of years, ginseng has been believed to help to boost energy levels, and it’s likely to be in-demand this week in South Korea as Seoul Art Week returns. Programming around the sophomore edition of Frieze Seoul and the stalwart fair Kiaf Seoul appears to have grown this year; art world players are also said to be struggling with organizing their schedule because there are just too many gallery dinners, parties, and art openings to attend.

In sum, the packed event list can be seen as a vote of confidence for the market in South Korea despite recent reports of sales decline. Besides openings at commercial galleries, top international auction houses are staging large-scale exhibitions that are not to miss. Christie’s is teaming up with Hyundai Card (a credit card company of Hyundai Motor Group) to stage “Heads On: Basquiat & Warhol,” a $150 million spectacle of works by Jean-Michel Basquiat and Andy Warhol.

For its part, Sotheby’s will be presenting “Love in Paradise,” an exhibition that unites Banksy and Keith Haring, featuring the South Korean public debut of Banksy’s famed shredded artwork Girl without Balloon (2021). And Phillips has assembled works by more than 30 artists from around the world, including up-and-coming artists and blue chip names, for the selling exhibition “Briefly Gorgeous” at Songwon Art Center.

Those who are keen on discovering Korean talents should check out shows staged by the art world arms of the fashion giants Prada and Hermes, which will each be presenting Korean artists, or head to the MMCA and Songeun Art and Cultural Foundation, which are respectively staging group exhibitions of Korean contemporary art.

We sifted through the long lists of shows and events and plucked out five exhibitions that deserve your attention.

Kim Beom: “How to become a rock”
On view at Leeum through December 3

Kim Beom

Kim Beom, Swan (2004). Courtesy Leeum Museum of Art. ⓒ Kim Beom.

The opening of Kim Beom’s show at Leeum in July was met with great expectations; the exhibition is the first major solo presentation of the artist in 13 years, despite the fact that the 60-year-old is championed as one of the most important Korean contemporary artists. The presentation includes quirky installations and conceptual pieces spanning three decades of Kim’s creative output.

Leeum, 60-16, Itaewon-ro 55-gil, Yongsan-gu, Seoul, 04348

Kangja Jung: “Dear Dream, Fantasy, and Challenge”
Arario Museum
Through September 10

Kangja Jung

Installation view of Kangja Jung: “Dear Dream, Fantasy, and Challenge” ⓒ 2023 ARARIO MUSEUM.

When Kangja Jung first emerged in the Korean art scene with her 1968 performance, Transparent Balloons and Nude, she was dismissed by critics. Jung persevered, becoming a pioneer who was well ahead of her time and who is now recognized as the first known feminist nude performer in South Korea.

As a member of the Korean Young Artists Association Exhibition, she was also at the forefront of the country’s avant-garde art movement before she relocated to Singapore with her family in 1970, effectively vanishing from the Korean art scene for over a decade. Upon returning to Korea in 1981, she focused on painting, transcending her critical spirit onto canvas. This exhibition explores Jung’s journey via archival materials, paintings, and batik works made in the 1970s and ’80s.

Arario Museum, 83, Yulgok-ro, Jongno-gu, Seoul, 03058

Suh Yongsun: “My Name is Red”
Art Sonje Center
Through October 22

Suh Yongsun

Suh Yongsun, Lying on the Sea (2012). Courtesy the artist and Art Sonje Center.

Born in Seoul in 1951, Suh Yongsun studied painting and is highly regarded in the South Korean art world for his depiction of “human existence,” with his works that often reference historical events or characters with signature broad brushstrokes, bold colors, and rough texture. The aesthetics of his work, which brings together a traditional Korean style with European influences, has set him apart from the popular trend of minimalism in the country.

Art Sonje Center, 87, Yulgok-ro 3-gil, Jongno-gu, Seoul, 03062

Lawrence Weiner: “Under the Sun”
Amorepacific Museum of Art
Through January 28, 2024

Lawrence Weiner

Lawrence Weiner, SMASHED TO PIECES (IN THE STILL OF THE NIGHT) (1976). Courtesy Pace Gallery.

“Under the Sun” marks the artist’s Asian debut and the first expansive solo institutional show after his death in 2021. The show at Amorepacific Museum of Art features 47 text-based sculptures juxtaposed against the institution’s Korean art collection, with an aim to create a new visual dialogue.

Also on view are edition works, drawings, posters, and video by Weiner, as well as acclaimed early works from the 1970s, such as SMASHED TO PIECES (IN THE STILL OF THE NIGHT) (1971) and TO SEE AND BE SEEN (1972). Pace Gallery has recently announced that it now represents the artist’s estate in Asia—Weiner’s work will be shown at the gallery’s booth at Frieze Seoul.

Amorepacific Museum of Art, 100 Hangang-daero, Yongsan-gu, Seoul.

Kim Kulim: “Kim Kulim” 
Through February 12

Kim Kulim

Kim Kulim, Civilization, Woman, Money, film 1969, video 1969-2016, single-channel video, color, sound, 22 min. 10 sec. MMCA collection.

The solo exhibition of Kim Kulim brings together the artist’s expansive body of work from the 1950s to today. Dubbed the founding father of Korean multimedia art, Kim’s paintings from the 1960s, made in the wake of the Korean War, as well as his performances and installations made in decade that followed, have become key reference points in Korean art history. A total of 230 works and 60 pieces of archival materials are included in this career-spanning show.

MMCA, 30 Samcheong-ro 5-gil, Jongno-gu, Seoul

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