A Young Collector Is Launching a New Art Fair in Seoul, Testing a Model He Hopes Will Make a Difference in Asia
ART OnO's founder, collector JaeMyung Noh, is keeping booth fees low and emphasizing fresh and experimental works.
From Miami and Hong Kong to Paris and Tokyo, South Korean collector JaeMyung Noh has been traveling to almost all the major art fairs around the world over the past year. But in April of next year, he’s certain he’ll be in Seoul, where he will be launching an art fair of his own.
ART OnO, which stands for “One and Only,” will take place from April 18 to 21 at exhibition SETEC in Seoul’s Gangnam district. Details, including the exhibitor list and programming, are still being finalized, but the fair expects to have around 60 galleries, with around 40 of them from outside of South Korea. Peres Projects (Berlin, Seoul, Milan), Portuguese dealer Duarte Sequeira, Nicholas Krupp (Basel), and the Seoul-based This Weekend Room and Hakgojae are among the galleries taking part in the new fair.
But does Asia need another art fair, when the roster is already jam-packed since the region’s emergence from Covid restrictions last fall? South Korea alone had 65 art fairs in 2021, according to government agency Korea Arts Management Service (KAMS), and that number has gone up following the arrival of Frieze Seoul last year. The fair calendar got even more crowded this year with other new fairs popping up across the region including Art SG in Singapore, Tokyo Gendai in Japan’s Yokohama, and Art Busan’s Seoul venture Define Seoul, which runs from November 1 to 5.
Noh’s answer is “Yes.” Having travelled to so many art fairs around the world, the 33-year-old collector noticed that fresh artworks are hard to come by at art fairs. As a collector, he has been hoping to see exciting art, but blue-chip galleries often bring similar works to their booths, while high booth fees and operational costs have priced out small galleries, which can have great artists on their roster, he said.
“A lot of people care too much about the brand, the name, and the price. But the only thing we care about is the quality of the program and the works,” Noh said, adding that he wants to create a platform that allows galleries to bring something new to the audience.
To ensure that even small galleries can participate in ART OnO and take risks in their choice of works to show, Noh said he tried his best to keep the booth fees low to lessen financial pressure for galleries with fewer resources. The booth fees are at least 40 percent lower than other local fairs in South Korea, he said. There will be big name galleries too, but he is asking them to bring fresh works rather than the usual art-fair suspects.
ART OnO will also emphasize its collaboration with other partners, including artists, institutions, and private collectors. “I want people to come and enjoy their stay in Seoul,” he said. Noh hosted dozens of groups of museum patrons, collectors, and art world professionals from around the world at his private collection during the Frieze Seoul week in September, hoping to offer a different perspective of Seoul’s art scene to visitors abroad.
“We want to connect different parties together, and I would love to strike a balance between for-profits and non-profits,” Noh said. “An art fair is not just a market. I want local people to have an opportunity to experience something different, and understand that there are so many ways to enjoy art.”
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