Brimming with art, the Korean International Art Fair lies on the first floor of the Coex convention center in Seoul (two levels below Frieze Seoul).
Populated primarily by homegrown artist and galleries — though a few international dealers brought American and European artists — Kiaf is slightly larger than Frieze and slightly more subdued during opening hours. Its VIP lounge, however, replete with a white-tablecloth pop-up of a Hyundai that had music piped in and a waitlist, was certainly exquisite.
Along the aisles the plentiful art was largely a mixture of galleries’ rosters, as opposed to single or dual-artist booths. The one thing that caught this reporter’s eye was a bevy of works by legendary video artist Nam June Paik (at least four galleries had a work or two by the Korean American artist on view).
Below, a look at the best on offer at Kiaf, which runs through September 6.
Min SungHong at Gallery Chosun
Near the entrance of the fair is a striking installation work, titled Skin_Layer (2022) by Min SungHong, that includes a rug with a landscape scene — on top rest several bird-like sculptures , an ornate chandelier hung above, and equally intricate wall works. According to a pamphlet, the artist’s work focuses on relationships and how to resolve conflicts through the use of “birds that have repeatedly changed and adapted to symbolize the social ecosystem. In particular, the bird’s head is used as a medium of time, change, situation space, and communication.”
Ad Minoliti at Peres Projects
In one section of the booth for Berlin’s Peres Projects is this eye-popping installation by Buenos Aires–based artist Ad Minoliti. The artist has become known for fanciful creations undergirded by feminist and queer theory as a way to interrupt the canon and imagine new alternatives. This display in Seoul is no exception.
El Groupo X at Gallery Shilla
The art world isn’t likely to soon forget when Maurizio Cattelan duct-taped a banana to a wall at Art Basel Miami Beach in 2019. Its much debated validity as an art object is the central premise of two works on view at Gallery Shilla. The first is a series of duct-taped bananas (titled “Banana is Banana?”) that cost USD$35 and come with a certificate of authenticity that lists its provenance (2022, Kiaf) and a riddle that spells out the value of the work, depending on whether you think it’s just a banana or more than one.
Next to this is a large canvas that asks “The Price of Art Is?” that comes with an accompanying survey that visitors can fill out with four questions, including “Does the price of an artwork represent the needs of the market? (Yes/No)” and “Is the price of an artwork a quantification of its aesthetic value? (Yes/No).” Perhaps unsurprisingly, the posted answers were not all in agreement.
One of Korea’s leading galleries, Kukje presents several works by its magnificent roster of artists, many of whom are among the country’s most prominent and closely watched. The gallery’s booth at Kiaf is no exception to this and gives a fascinating primer of contemporary Korean art history, with works on offer by the likes of Lee Ufan, Park Seo-Bo, Kim Whanki, Ha Chong-Hyun, and many more.
The juxtaposition of a 2022 mixed-media work by Haegue Yang and a 1985 gouache and Chinese ink on paper paper piece by Kwon Young-Woo, in a back corner of the booth, was particularly striking.
Bae Samsik at Gallery Seohwa
These stunning pieces by Bae Samsik at first look appear to be variously colored blocks that are collaged onto a single canvas. The work is actually a mixed-media relief that is “created with a mixture of powdered stone and oxide glue [that] creates subtle changes in the depth of shadows based on the viewer’s perspective,” according to an artist book that accompanies this body of work.
The artist adds, “I hope the viewer can feel the invisible depth which is embedded in layers of repeated brushstrokes.” These works really do give off a transcendent scene of space.
Jaikwan Kim at Vit Gallery
Born in 1947, Jaikwan Kim has been interested in geometric abstraction for more than five decades. Vit Gallery is presenting several recent works by Kim, including ones done in his signature style in which various planes of cubes and squares intersect in different colors to create dazzling abstractions. It is also presenting as works that depart from that which use a different system entirely. These works are still organized by lines but see the artist apply more pointillist-inflected dots to the canvas. It’s all a way to express the light, sound, and color of nature.
Kim Youngjoo at Gallery Woong
Kim Youngjoo studied Oriental arts at the Ewha Womans University in Seoul before she moved to London. Her education at Ewha focused on how to utilize the materials-at-hand over creating specific imagery. That approach eventually led her toward more minimalist ends in which she creates her own shaped canvases that focus on how a line can intersect into a circle by the conditions she has created for it.
“The circle,” she said during the VIP preview, “gives freedom to move in and out of the line of the circle. I see that freedom as an approach to a new type of painting.”
Nam June Paik at Pyo Gallery
It’s unsurprising that seemingly around every bend (in the booths of in the booths of Hakgojae, Art Works, and Moin Gallery) I would encounter another video installation by Nam June Paik, one of the most famous visual artists that Korea has produced. This was the last one I spotted, and I almost missed it.
But 1999’s Video Piano is definitely one of Paik’s strongest installations and its display here, which included a camera pointed at those standing in front of it that was then piped onto several of the monitors, was very engaging. A great way to end my fair experience in Seoul with one of the masters.