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Define Seoul beckons Seongsu-dong hipsters with art, design

Nov. 2, 2023 - 15:20 By Park Yuna
The thematic exhibition “Beautiful Endurance and Resonate Through Wood" curated by Yang Teo is seen at the inaugural Define Seoul, which kicked off Wednesday. (Park Yuna/The Korea Herald)

The inaugural design and art fair, Define Seoul, kicked off Wednesday, bringing together some 25 galleries and design brands from home and abroad in Seongsu-dong, one of the trendiest neighborhoods in Seoul, home to hip cafes, intriguing pop-up stores and shops.

“Seoul is garnering unprecedented international recognition as one of the major art centers. Define Seoul encapsulates the idea of connecting design and fine art while redefining the way we perceive and engage with art,” said Jeong Seok-ho, managing director of Art Busan.

The five-day design art fair is the first event in Seoul launched by Art Busan, established in the port city of Busan 15 years ago. Define Seoul runs across three studios in the neighborhood -- Layer 27, Layer 41 and Andy’s 636.

Curated by designer Yang Teo, the first edition of Define Seoul took the theme of “A Look Within Matter.” Yang is presenting wooden craftworks by Na Jeom-soo and Park Hong-gu at the thematic exhibition, “Beautiful Endurance and Resonate Through Wood.”

“I believe without endurance, there cannot be works that resonate with us. The tree rings make you believe that no other matter can give a clearer image of ‘endurance’ like wood can,” said Yang.

Cheyul, a Korean heritage luxury brand, is showing mother-of-pearl and lacquer craftworks by Korean artists including lacquer artist Jeong Kwang-bok, whose hand-made wooden bags in the “Bible Series” and “Luxury Series” are presented at the brand's booth.

“We try to introduce talented Korean craft artists and artisans. We are planning to expand overseas soon," said Cheyul CEO Lee Jeong-eun.

Industrial designer Christopher Coombes speaks to the press about his latest project at Define Seoul in Seongsu-dong, Seoul, Wednesday. (Park Yuna/The Korea Herald)

Italian designer brand Giopato & Coombes based just outside of Venice, Italy, is presenting their latest handmade lamps in “Draws A Line PE3” and “Draws A Line PE4,” inspired by calligraphy created with blackened brass and glass from Murano, the Venetian island famous for glass making.

“We have a creative studio just outside of Venice. We have been inspired by Korean culture and art generally, so we come back regularly (to Seoul). While we were working on this latest project over the last six months, Korean artist Lee Bae visited our studio, and we discussed drawing the line,” said industrial designer Christopher Coombes, who works with his wife Cristiana Giopato.

Kukje Gallery is showcasing works by Korean artist Hong Seung-hye, whose objects can also function as furniture, at a booth at Andy's 636, showcasing her solo presentation, “Becoming Furniture.”

While the three venues are within walking distance, a shuttle bus is provided for VIP ticket holders. Define Seoul runs through Sunday.