Commemorating the inaugural Frieze Seoul and Kiaf Seoul that kicks off on Friday, the capital is in a festive mood with a flood of art events such as exhibitions, artist talks and parties well into the night. Sept. 1 to 11 has been designated as the week of art, naming it “Dive into Korean Art,” coinciding with Frieze and Kiaf Seoul.
Two art clusters in Seoul, Samcheong and Hannam neighborhoods in northern Seoul, are must-visits this weekend if you are a fan of art. Of course, there is also the Samseong-dong neighborhood in southern Seoul where Frieze and Kiaf Seoul are taking place. Here are some galleries and museums that The Korea Herald recommends you visit, among many others.
You can start at Leeum Museum of Art, the largest private museum in the country, where you can see six new exhibitions starting Friday. Among the shows is “Cloud Walkers,” the museum’s first special exhibition that focuses on contemporary art by Asian artists by presenting 45 works by 24 artists or collectives. If you are interested in moon jars – Korea’s traditional white porcelain jars -- the special exhibition “Moon Jars: Park Young-sook and Craft Now” is a good chance to learn how traditional white porcelain can be reinterpreted today through 29 moon jars by ceramist Park Young-sook.
Pace Gallery is just a three-minute-walk away from Leeum Museum of Art. The world- famous gallery expanded its space in Hannam-dong last year and now has newly opened O'sulloc Tea House at its arts complex in collaboration with local tea brand, O'sulloc. It offers locally produced teas and Korean tea-infused cocktails -- both alcohol and non-alcoholic. Japanese sculptor Kohei Nawa and Korean artist Lee Kun-yong's works are on display. You should not miss the exhibition “teamlab: Massless Suns” at the gallery also.
If you walk uphill along Itaewon-ro, you will find Lehmann Maupin, which is presenting the exhibition “DNA: Study/(Visual:Ear)” by Chicago-based artist McArthur Binion who has created highly labor intensive works, combining collage, drawing and paintings. Binion’s complexly layered works are intensely personal and deeply dedicated to the rigorous process of making a painting. On your way to the gallery -- if you are observant -- you notice a specially commissioned installation on the exterior of the Hyundai Card Music Library created by Alex Prager, a Los Angeles-based photographer whom the gallery represents.
Across Hannam-daero, Thaddaeus Ropac Seoul invites visitors to view a new series of works by German artist Anselm Kiefer who has shown floor-to-ceiling paintings at Palazzo Ducale in Venice, Italy, coinciding with the ongoing 59th Venice Biennale. The exhibition in Seoul, “Wer jetzt kein Haus hat (Whoever has no house now),” shows Kiefer’s works inspired by poems by Austrian poet Rainer Maria Rilke, dedicated to the autumn season. The paintings feature dark, silhouetted trees and falling leaves in rich autumn browns. Next to Thaddaeus Ropac Seoul is Gallery Baton where the exhibition “Know Yourself” by Korean artist Song Burn-soo shows works by the artist who has dedicated himself for over a half century to figuring out the unique identity of Korean contemporary art.
The cozy neighborhood near Gyeongbokgung Palace has been a popular art district for a long time. Traditional tea houses and Korean food restaurants are aplenty where you can fill your stomach while wandering around the neighborhood.
The first destination is the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Korea which is showing “MMCA Lee Kun-hee Collection: Lee Jung Seop” and “Hito Steyerl – A Sea of Data” at the museum’s Seoul venue. The museum’s Deoksugung venue, a five-minute drive from the Seoul venue, the exhibition “Moon Shin Retrospective: Towards the Universe” is underway.
Kukje Gallery, a leading gallery in the country, hosts the late Lee Seung-jio’s exhibition featuring his “Nucleus” series. At first glance, pieces may look like designs made with computer graphics, but they are actually oil paintings on canvas. Lee was one of the major artists of the group “Origin” who led the geometric abstraction movement in 1960s in Korea. Thirty works of optical illusion will offer a chance to take a fresh look at his visual language.
If you walk up the road between MMCA and Kukje Gallery, you will see Art Sonje Center on your right. Two contemporary art exhibitions at the art center expand the meaning of art. Moon Kyung-won and Jeon Joon-ho’s “Seoul Weather Station” exhibition is taking place on the second and third floors. A robot named “Spot” will guide you through the exhibition of a temporary "weather observatory," designed to seek the social role of art in times of climate crisis.
Another exhibition, Korakrit Arunanondchai’s “Songs for Dying/Songs for Living” is taking place at the center's Art Hall. The Thai artist switches the role of the audience and the stage, by installing his works in the seats instead of on the stage. Reservations must be made to visit the two exhibitions.
Frieze Film, a program on the sidelines of Frieze Seoul, is open to the public from Aug. 31 to Sept. 7 at Magjib and Together Together, curated by two non-profit groups, Los Angeles-based Gyopo and Seoul-based Wess. The programming named “I Am My Own Other” will feature works of 10 local and diaspora Korean media artists spanning two locations. The artists include Cha Jea-min, Chang Seo-young and Nikki S. Lee.
If you want to experience large-scale art market in full swing in Seoul, visit Coex. Frieze Seoul and Kiaf Seoul bring together more than 350 galleries from around the world, and you will find works by world-renowned artists. The joint ticket allows access to the two art fairs.
Right across the street from Coex, My Art Museum is presenting the exhibition “Joan Miro: Women, Birds, Stars” that showcases more than 70 works from the collection of Fundacio Joan Miro, a museum established by the artist in 1975.