Seoul Is Famous For Its Late-Night Markets. During Art Week, a Pop-Up Art Market Showcases the Alternative Side of the Scene

Platforming artist-run spaces and Asia-based galleries, pop-up fair Our Week wants to expand the horizons of the international art crowd in Seoul.

Our Week Seoul 2023
Our Week Seoul 2023. Photo: Vivienne Chow.

It had already passed midnight but the night was still young for an energetic art crowd gathering on the rooftop of a rundown low-rise building in the South Korean capital’s hip neighborhood, Itaewon. There were no fancy cocktails, free flowing champagne, or deafening music. But that did not bother the art world professionals reunited in Seoul for its art week, as they immersed themselves in engaging conversations.

Such was the scene of Tuesday’s opening night of Our Week, a new art “festival,” in organizers’ words, coinciding with the city’s art fairs, Frieze Seoul and Kiaf Seoul.

Jointly curated by three Seoul-based young galleries Cava Life, P21, and White Noise, Our Week was inspired by the concept of the successful Basel Social Club, a late-opening alternative art selling event which coincided with Art Basel in Switzerland this year. But the concept of art shopping at night is particularly well-suited to Seoul, where there is already a culture of late-night retailing in night markets and shopping malls around the city.

our Week Seoul 2023

Our Week Seoul 2023. Photo: Vivienne Chow.

At Our Week’s core is a selling group show featuring works by more than 50 artists offered by 22 participating galleries, including artist-run alternative spaces as well as those who were also showing at Frieze Seoul, such as Carlos/Ishikawa from London, Hong Kong’s Kiang Malingue, and Seoul-based Whistle and White Noise.

The four-day festival is open until 11 p.m., and runs through September 8. It also includes performances and screenings curated by Seoul-based 143KM and U.S. artist-run platform Tiger Strikes Asteroid as well as performances by Germany-educated tea and performance artist Dambi Kim and Düsseldorf-based Mira Mann, who made her debut performance in Seoul.

Soo Choi, founder of the Seoul-based P21, said that after the much hyped up debut of Frieze Seoul last year, she and her partners felt that it was crucial to bring the international art crowd’s attention to artist-run spaces and Asia-based galleries. “They all deserve to be seen. People who came to Seoul for the fair don’t have a clue about how to find these places. I want to include these project places so that we can create a platform for new discoveries,” she told Artnet News.

Our week seoul 2023

Our Week Seoul 2023. Photo: Vivienne Chow.

Directly inspired by Basel Social Club, Choi said she initially wanted to partner with the organizers of the event, but that time constraints did not permit the collaboration. “They were kind enough to share their knowledge and experiences,” she said, adding: “I was blown away.”

After reaching out to a friend who owns the complex, which consists of three old buildings, she invited galleries and participants, who in turn started encouraging others to participate in the experimental event.

Willem Molesworth, co-founder of the Hong Kong-based contemporary art gallery Property Holdings Development Group (PHD Group), took part in the event and helped to install the works while other galleries were busy with setting up booths at the fairs. PHD Group brought works by Hong Kong artists Virtue Village and Michele Chu, and Japan’s Sasaoka Yuriko.

“We’re interested in exploring alternative systems of exhibiting and selling art,” he told Artnet News. “We appreciate the communal effort to activate sales and gatherings, and additionally like how the fair is rooted in its context—East Asia.”

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