International art galleries look to Seoul as a new hub

A view of Alex Katz’ solo exhibition at Thaddaeus Ropac Seoul. This is the second exhibition from the prestigious Seoul branch of the gallery which opened in October. [THADDAEUS ROPAC]

Seoul is becoming a new hotspot for international art galleries, and among Seoul’s art hubs, Hannam-dong in Yongsan District attracts more foreign galleries than Samcheong-dong art area. in the north and Gangnam in the south of Seoul.

New York-based gallery Lehmann Maupin announced plans to move to Hannam-dong last month, four years after opening in central Seoul’s Anguk-dong, considered part of the Samcheong-dong art area. .

The new space is expected to open in early spring next year. It will be a two-story building that will include an outdoor terrace to display large-scale sculptures, according to Lehmann Maupin. The building was designed by SoA, or Society of Architecture, a local architecture firm that won the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism’s Young Architect Award in 2015.

Lehmann Maupin was one of the first major foreign galleries to set up a permanent exhibition space in Korea. With branches also located in Hong Kong and London, the gallery represents internationally renowned artists from various countries, including Korea, such as Do Ho Suh and Lee Bul.

Today, the gallery is hosting a solo exhibition by Johannesburg-based artist Billie Zangewa in what is now the Anguk-dong space. The exhibition features her intricate collages made from hand-sewn pieces of raw silk, which primarily depict her young son and his intimate moments with his family and friends. Zagewa’s exhibition titled “Flesh and Blood”, will run until January 15 next year.

The new Lehmann Maupin space which will open next spring [LEHMANN MAUPIN]

The new Lehmann Maupin space which will open next spring [LEHMANN MAUPIN]

The hand-sewn silk collage

Billie Zangewa’s hand-stitched silk collage “Sweetest Devotion” (2021) is part of her solo exhibition at Lehmann Maupin Seoul. [LEHMANN MAUPIN]

The inaugural exhibition at the new building will be a solo show by Los Angeles-based artist Lari Pittman, the gallery said.

Thaddaeus Ropac, founded by Austrian gallerist of the same name in 1983, opened its Seoul branch last October in the Fort Hill building near the United Nations village in Hannam-dong. The gallery has branches in London, Paris and Salzburg.

Thaddaeus Ropac Seoul’s inaugural exhibition, which ended late last month, was a solo show by German artist Georg Baselitz, often dubbed “the master of neo-expressionism” and considered one of the most important living artists. The 91-year-old presented large-scale paintings in his signature style which depict human bodies with highly expressive brushstrokes and are displayed upside down.

Gallery founder Ropac, who attended the Seoul exhibition’s press preview on Oct. 6, said, “I opened the Seoul gallery not only to showcase European artists in Korea , but also to discover Asian artists, including Koreans”. He added that he was impressed by the fact that already in the 1960s Korean artists followed new Western art movements and he wanted to explore these artists.

Thaddaeus Ropac Seoul has since opened a solo exhibition by Alex Katz called “Flowers”. Katz, who is described by the gallery as “a preeminent painter of modern American life” and emerging as one of the most popular artists among wealthy Korean collectors, primarily showcases his flower paintings which have a carefree and calming feel. .

According to the gallery, Katz, best known for his portraits, said his flower paintings are connected to the group portraits he created throughout the 1960s. overlap, allowing him to investigate the sense of movement that eluded him in the cocktail scenes he was painting at the time,” the gallery said in a press release. The artist returned to painting flowers at the start of the 2020 pandemic. He was quoted as saying “I thought the world could use some cheering up.”

The view from Thaddaues Ropac Seoul [THADDAEUS ROPAC]

The view from Thaddaues Ropac Seoul [THADDAEUS ROPAC]

Meanwhile, in May, Pace Gallery, which has branches in New York, London and Hong Kong, moved its Seoul branch to the Le Beige building near the Leeum Museum of Art. In June, Foundry Seoul, an art trading subsidiary of Korean industrial pipe fitting maker TK Corporation, opened in the building of Gucci Gaok, the high-end brand’s second flagship store in Seoul.

Hannam-dong, which includes streets commonly known as Itaewon, has become a major arts area in Seoul since Leeum opened in 2004. Leeum, home to the Samsung Foundation’s collection, reopened in early October after undergoing renovations before being essentially inactive for four years.

Also in the area are the Hyundai Card Company’s music library and art center storage; Gana Art Sounds and Gana Art NineOne, which are subsidiaries of Gana Art, one of Korea’s largest galleries; alternative art spaces Amado and ThisWeekendRoom; Gallery Baton which is considered one of the strongest young galleries; BHAK Gallery, a gallery with 28 years of history; and the Blue Square Musical Theater art exhibition spaces.

BY MOON SO-YOUNG, SHIN MIN-HEE [[email protected]]

Mildred D. Field