HomeDesignFrieze Seoul Settles In for Its Second Year

Frieze Seoul Settles In for Its Second Year

Even after a buzzed-about debut in 2022 Attracted K-pop starsArt fair Freeze Seoul will return to the Coex Center in the South Korean capital for a different outing, running from Thursday to September 9 and featuring 121 galleries.

“It was explosive,” the Seoul-based contemporary dealer Jason Humm said about the inaugural edition, which came about due to pandemic restrictions and relaxation of collectors’ travel habits.

“It came at the right time. We had this prestigious international fair,” Mr. Hum added, “and it made us very proud.”

A prestigious showcase is important to dealers, but given the cost of showing at fairs — especially those traveling from far — they expect to see results.

“We sold out our presentation,” said Kurt Muller, a senior director David Kordansky Gallery Los Angeles and New York. “It can’t go well.”

Freeze, which is owned by the sports and entertainment conglomerate try, has been an expansion tear. In the summer, it announced that outside of its four marquee fairs – in London, New York, Los Angeles and Seoul – it had also bought Armory Show in New York, which runs from September 8 to 10 at the Javits Center Expo ChicagoA spring event.

The Seoul event will be slightly bigger in its second outing, with three more dealers than last year. (For comparison, the overall size is about the same as the Los Angeles fair of friezes and about twice as big as New York.)

Just like last year, Frieze will overlap with the Seoul Art Fair kiaf, which focuses on Korean art and takes place on a different floor of Coex. The fairs will also collaborate on some programming and offer dual-entry tickets.

According to Frieze Seoul’s director, Patrick Lee, more than half of the dealers are based in Asia or international galleries with outposts on the continent, an increase from last year.

For the second year, the fair will have a section called Focus Asia, featuring 10 galleries from Bangkok; Singapore; Dubai, United Arab Emirates; and other cities.

Mr Lee said such efforts gave the fair a distinct flavor which was part of its appeal. “It can’t be cookie-cutter,” he said, noting the competition at dozens of art fairs worldwide.

“We continue to exploit the potential of Asia,” Mr Lee added. “It’s a big place. Freeze Seoul is a pan-Asian fair; How I see it. It is a stepping stone for the entire continent.”

Mr Lee stressed that this round, the fair has features that go beyond dealer booths. The beefed-up programming slate includes an extended version of Frieze Film, which will feature the work of 14 Korea-based artists specializing in moving images, with screenings at several non-profit art spaces around Seoul.

There will also be an installation by Hannah Wu, the inaugural winner of the Frieze Seoul Artist Prize. His work “The Great Ballroom”, made of draped fabric, will hang from the ceiling of the Coix.

Fairs are only successful when the right buyers show up, though, and New York-based collector Myeong Lee will be among the attendees again this year.

“It blew my mind how sophisticated the Korean market was,” Ms. Lee, who is Korean American, said of last year’s fair. “The Western Gallery also brought their A-game. People brought things they could sell over the phone.”

He added, “Now, I know the word is out, and I think more people will come.”

Ms. Lee, a trustee of the Whitney Museum of American Art, said at last year’s fair she bought a piece by the multidisciplinary artist Candice Lynn, who has galleries in New York and Los Angeles, from the dealer Francois Ghebali.

Galleries returning to the fair will offer slates of work selected in part based on the 2022 experience. David Kordansky has done well with a single booth and so is presenting another, this time featuring Los Angeles artist Mary Weatherford. Among his swirling, colorful paintings on linen is “Night of the Thumpasaurus” (2023). Some works include neon lights.

“We showed her at Art Basel Hong Kong, and there’s been a lot of interest in her work, but we haven’t had a chance to do a full presentation in Asia,” David Kordansky’s senior director Mr. Muller said of Ms. of Weatherford. “This is an opportunity for Asian collectors and institutions to bring a new work.”

For his part, Mr. Hum, a Seoul-based contemporary dealer, is showing some young artists, including Moka Lee, a 27-year-old figurative painter based in Seoul. Dealer will show his 2022 oil “ego function error”.

“We are trying to cultivate the next generation of Korean artists,” Mr. Ham said.

But he also represents some well-known international names, including British sculptor Sarah Lucas and Swiss-born installation master Urs Fischer. Mr. Fischer’s 2015 sculpture “UF” — made of aqua-resin, steel, wax, pigment, nails and glue — will be in Mr. Ham’s booth.

“His work has a gravitas,” the dealer said of Mr. Fisher, referring to an energy that makes collectors gravitate to pieces by lesser-known makers. “It means people take the gallery more seriously.”

Frieze Masters, the fair’s special section for older art, will also return this year.

“Last year was our first Masters outside of London,” said Nathan Clements-Gillespie, director of the Masters. (In London, it has its own separate tent.)

“It was an incredible success,” Mr Clements-Gillespie said. “We had people queuing up to see the medieval manuscripts. Connecting these works with contemporary art is exciting and powerful.”

One of the dealers in that section gray Chicago and New York.

“Collectors are free-spirited and non-ideological,” gallery co-owner Paul Gray says of the Seoul crowd. “They don’t follow trends.”

Mr. Gray will show works by famous 20th century artists including Jean Arp and Pablo Picasso. One of the booth’s star attractions will be a large painting by Joan Mitchell, “Untitled (Canada)” (1975).

The gallery also deals with contemporary works by living artists, and to that end it will also display new paintings at its booth, including Alex Katz’s “Saturday” (2002) and Torquays Dyson’s “Transverse-Black Lake_2 (Elevation)” (2023).

Some galleries opt for roommates of sorts, choosing to share a booth. This is the case for Whistle in Seoul and ROH in Jakarta, Indonesia.

“This is our first joint booth,” said Kyungmin Lee, Director of Whistle “It’s a test.” He said, each gallery will display the works of four artists.

“This is our home fair, and we have a solo show at the gallery at the same time,” Ms. Lee said, referring to an exhibition by the Seoul-based painter Emei Kaneyama at the gallery space in the Itaewon neighborhood. “It expands our platform in a different way.”

Whistle’s Frieze offerings include “Extracted Mountain (Single Peak)” (2020), a sculpture in resin, cement and polystyrene by Hyun Nahm, an artist based in Gwangju, South Korea.

Last year, Whistle showed in the Focus Asia section, but this time its booth is at the main fair, a move that puts the gallery in strong company.

Currimanzutto of Mexico City and New York will again appear in the main division this year. Gallery co-founder Monica Manzutto said last year’s Seoul fair was a hit.

“During the pandemic, we didn’t meet our Asian collectors, and it was a great moment to capture,” Ms. Manzutto said.

The Currimanzutto booth will include Colombian-born painter Oscar Murillo’s “Untitled (News)” (2021-22) in oil and an untitled work on recycled Tiravaniza gold leaf and newspaper. Mr. Tiravanija — a multimedia artist who lives and works in Berlin; New York; and Chiang Mai, Thailand — his largest museum survey to date at New York’s MoMA PS1 in October.

A beaded sonic sculpture by Seoul- and Berlin-based artist Haegu Yang, essentially a stainless-steel bell curtain, will lead to a separate booth area with Ms. Yang’s other pieces, including collage-like works on paper.

Ms. Manzutto said the pieces in her gallery booth were not chosen solely with sales in mind. An art fair booth is a billboard designed to attract the attention of curators, museum directors, and other art-world influencers.

“We want to create jobs, but we also want to expand their careers,” he said. “To me, that’s the real power of an art fair and why it’s worth the investment.”


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