Frieze art fair opens in Seoul, draws over 20,000 global VIP collectors

2023.09.07 13:33:01 | 2023.09.07 14:12:15

Frieze art fair held at COEX, Seoul. [Photo by Yonhap]이미지 확대

Frieze art fair held at COEX, Seoul. [Photo by Yonhap]

Frieze Seoul, one of the world’s top three art fairs, opened at COEX in southern Seoul on Wednesday in conjunction with the annual Kiaf Seoul, the largest art market in Asia, drawing more than 20,000 VIP collectors from around the world.

As with last year’s inaugural Frieze Seoul, popular artworks were already pre-sold or sold out as soon as the fair opened. David Zwirner, a major U.S. gallery, said that it sold Japanese master Yayoi Kusama’s painting “Pumpkin of Red God” to a Korean client for $5.8 million. A painting by American artist Katherine Bernhardt depicting the Pink Panther also sold for $2.2 million in advance. “Many collectors have expressed their intention to buy Yayoi’s ‘Infinity Net’ (worth $3.8 million) and the golden bronze sculpture ‘Pumpkin’ (worth $6.5 million),” an official from David Zwirner said.

Pace, a large U.S. gallery with a branch in Seoul’s Hannam-dong neighborhood, also said it had pre-sold most of its entries, including a $1.25 million oil painting by Japanese artist Yoshitomo Nara.

German gallery Esther Schipper, which entered the Korean market last year, sold five paintings by Japanese-British artist Simon Fujiwara for between 50,000 euros (about $53,601) and 100,000 euros (about $107,217).

Berlin gallery Spr?th Magers made its presence known by selling a large tapestry work by German female artist Rosemarie Trockel to a private art museum for 1.8 billion won ($1.35 million). An official from the gallery said, “We did not have as many ‘open runs’ as last year, but we had a diverse client base and many inquiries. In particular, a private collector from China bought a small work by Trockel in the 500 million won range.”

As collectors from the U.S., Europe, Japan, China, Hong Kong and elsewhere flocked to the event, works by Korean artists were also popular. Gallery Hyundai’s booth, decorated exclusively with paintings by female abstract artist Rhee Seundja, was inundated with inquiries from museums around the world. “We had some pre-sales of works worth hundreds of millions of won, and more than five world-class museums contacted us within an hour. It seems like an opportunity to introduce Rhee Seundja to the world,” according to Gallery Hyundai Chief Executive Officer Do Hyung-the.

The number of visitors from Hong Kong sharply increased this year, raising the possibility of the fair surpassing Art Basel Hong Kong, currently Asia’s largest art fair but whose status has been shaken by the territory’s national security law. “Visitors from Hong Kong, as well as Beijing, Shanghai and other Chinese cities, bought many interesting works at Frieze Seoul,” White Cube Director Wendy Xu said. “Our gallery also sold major works in the hundreds of millions of won, such as Tracy Emin, and is in talks with museums to sell them.”

A Chinese collector at the booth of France’s Perrotin Gallery said, “I came from Shanghai with my collector friends to enjoy Korean culture and buy artwork. The Korean art market is dynamic with a large number of young people, so I plan to continue to come to Frieze Seoul every year where I can find a variety of personalities and colors.”

Unlike last year, however, it was difficult to find multi-billion-won masterpieces at this year’s Frieze Seoul. There were no blockbuster exhibits such as the Acquavella Galleries booth last year, where the New York-based gallery displayed a Picasso work worth over 60 billion won. Instead, Gagosian, a large U.S. gallery which exhibited Gerhard Richter’s $5 million color oil painting “Candle” at its booth last year, featured a painting by British-born black artist Jad? Fadojutimi worth 500,000 pounds (about $625,054) and a $3.8 million painting by U.S. artist Jonas Wood, “Three Landscape Pots: Night Bloom, Orchid, Bromeliad.” One gallerist explained that “There is talk that some galleries did not bring works worth more than 10 billion won because it is difficult to transfer more than 7 billion won from Korea to overseas.”

Meanwhile, Kiaf Seoul, taking place alongside Frieze Seoul, was almost deserted with few visitors. Sales were dominated by moderately priced artworks offering good value for money.

Kukje Gallery opened a solo booth by Swiss artist Ugo Rondinone and sold 10 of his $55,000 “Mattituck” series, a prop depicting a sunrise, shortly after the opening. Horizon, a series of horse sculptures in the 300 million to 400 million won range, was also popular. Gallery Hyundai made a big splash with Ryan Gander’s solo booth, which was reminiscent of a “motor show” with an installation of hundreds of millions of won worth of Porsche parts set to music.

Cristea Roberts Gallery also drew attention with high value works by artists such as Roy Lichtenstein and David Hockney. Amsterdam’s Gallery Delaive presented more than 20 cardboard paintings by popular artist Ayako Rokkaku, with prices in the hundreds of millions of won, and sold half of them within minutes of the opening, making it the most popular booth.

In Kiaf Seoul, more than 10 Chinese collectors were spotted touring with an art guide.

Frieze Seoul, in which 120 Korean and foreign galleries participated, runs through Saturday, while Kiaf Seoul, with 210 galleries from home and abroad, runs through Sunday.

By Lee Han-na, Kim Seul-gi, and Yoon Yeon-hae

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