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[Herald Interview] Gagosian, Hauser & Wirth, see Seoul as another art hub in Asia

Hong Kong Gagosian Gallery Exterior (Gagosian Gallery)

The inaugural Freeze Seoul took the local art world by storm just as Seoul was beginning to take center stage in the global art world. Whether Seoul has the potential to become an art hub in Asia remains to be seen. His two world-leading galleries, Hauser & Wirth and Gagosian, shared their views on the art market here in a recent interview with Korea Herald, which visited Seoul in early September.

“Asia continues to be the driving force of the art market”

Founded in 1987 by American art dealer Larry Gagosian, Gagosian is the largest global network of modern and contemporary art galleries, operating 19 locations worldwide. When the gallery participated in its inaugural Freeze Soul, it chose quality works by established artists to meet the expectations of Korean collectors.

Nick Simunovic, Gagosian’s senior director of Asia, said, “We reached out to all the artists and asked them to prepare their work especially for Freeze Soul, especially for the Korean market. I have been working with the Korean art scene since taking charge of gallery operations at .

Gallerists attribute the growth of the South Korean art market not only to South Korea’s rich cultural heritage, but also to its extensive tradition of collecting since the end of the Korean War (1950-1953), and robust art infrastructure. I’m here.

“When I first came to South Korea in 2007, I quickly realized that we had a very extensive tradition of collecting significant post-war contemporary art for 40 years. I think the foundation was established a long time ago,” he said.

At Freeze Soul, the gallery showcased many international artists exhibiting for the first time in Korea, including Louise Bonnet, who recently held her first solo exhibition in Asia in the gallery’s Hong Kong space.

Since the political turmoil of 2019, some have questioned the sustainability of Hong Kong’s art market, but Simunovich believes the market remains strong. He disagrees with the idea that Seoul is an alternative to Hong Kong.

“I think the fear of Hong Kong’s demise is greatly exaggerated. In my experience, interest in collecting art has never diminished,” Simunovich said.

“I am totally against zero-sum games (ideas). I think Asia is huge geographically and there is a very wide range of interest in collecting. That is what we have been working on for the last 15 years. The success of Freeze Seoul and Freeze Seoul and Kiaf Seoul doesn’t have to come at the expense of Hong Kong.There are many successful trade fairs in Asia,” he added.

He cautioned against investments and speculatively driven collections that are not sustainable in the long term, regardless of region.

“Some people buy art because it’s trendy and fashionable, while others see it as money in the future,” he said. They will find something they find more interesting. ”

“You will see cycles in any market, but I think the development of the market here in South Korea is very real,” he said.

Simunovich said opening new galleries in general is done in a “very deliberate manner” and that “all options are on the table” when it comes to opening a space in Seoul, deepening ties with collectors. ,Expanding.

Gagosian Senior Director of Asia Nick Simunovich (Gagosian Gallery)

Gagosian Senior Director of Asia Nick Simunovich (Gagosian Gallery)

“Seoul is a mecca for art institutions”

Founded in 1992 in Zurich by Swiss art dealer Iwan Wirth, Hauser & Wirth is a leading contemporary and contemporary art gallery with 18 locations in Europe, the USA and Hong Kong.

Elaine Kwok, the gallery’s managing partner for Asia, said Seoul’s strength lies in its wealth of art institutions compared to other Asian cities.

“Hong Kong doesn’t have the huge corporate collections that are open to the public like Seoul. mentioned. Museum.

“It is important to build the right relationships with the right institutions so that artists can have shows in Korea. What we are doing is building a long-term reputation for our artists. If we build great careers for artists, more good artists will want to work with us, and in the end it’s the artists’ problem,” said Kwok.

Installation view of the Hauser & Wirth booth at Freeze Soul (Hauser & Wirth)

Installation view of the Hauser & Wirth booth at Freeze Soul (Hauser & Wirth)

Although the gallery does not have a physical presence in Seoul, Kwok hinted that Hauser & Wirth has not ruled out an urban presence.

Kwok believes that South Korea has the potential to become another arts hub in Asia alongside Hong Kong, and that Hong Kong will revive as a premier hub once the quarantine due to the pandemic is lifted.

“It was around 2010, when China was really booming, that Western galleries and art fairs were looking to expand into Asia. South Korea was overshadowing China’s potential. People are now , we recognize that there is more to Asia than just China,” she said.

The first issue of Frieze Seoul has received a lot of international attention due to the popularity of Korean cultural content around the world. It was also the first global art fair in Asia since the pandemic.

“If you’re interested in Korea, please come at least once (during Freeze Seoul), and it’s up to Seoul, your city, to do your best to keep people coming back,” she said.

“What we are missing this year are collectors from China and Hong Kong (because of the pandemic lockdown). I sincerely hope that we will have Chinese collectors next year. It adds a new dimension.”

Elaine Kwok, Managing Partner for Asia at Hauser & Wirth (Hauser & Wirth)

Elaine Kwok, Managing Partner for Asia at Hauser & Wirth (Hauser & Wirth)

In the first few hours of the art fair, the gallery sold 15 works, including works by George Condo, Mark Bradford, and Rashid Johnson, to private collectors, institutions, and private museums in South Korea and beyond.

Frieze Seoul, the first Asian version of the global art fair Frieze, was held from September 2nd to 5th in cooperation with Kiaf Seoul, a 20-year art fair based in Seoul. The two trade fairs attracted more than 70,000 people from home and abroad.

Park Yunayunapark@heraldcorp.com)

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