When asking collectors and gallerists about the world's best art cities, you'd surely expect them to name a few classics such as Paris, New York City, or Tokyo. However, there's a surprising beloved city that art lovers can't stop talking about: Seoul, South Korea. The capital has long been known for its bustling districts, award-winning restaurants, and thriving music scene, but now, it will also play host to Frieze's first ever fair in Asia from September 2 to 5, 2022.
Each year, Frieze hosts five renowned art gatherings which bring together artists and collectors from across the world to see the latest works, from both icons and newcomers making waves in the contemporary art scene. To outsiders, the announcement of Frieze Seoul may have come as a shock since these art fairs were only previously held in London, New York, and Los Angeles. Yet, Patrick Lee, the director of Frieze Seoul, notes that Seoul's emergence as a leader in contemporary art has been a long time coming.
"The contemporary art scene in Seoul really grew up in the 1980s with collecting becoming a popular activity, rising rapidly over the past 30 years," Lee says. "Seoul is a dynamic place with a sophisticated and inquisitive collector base and art world infrastructure. The country boasts incredibly talented artists, world-class museums, corporate collections, non-profits, biennales, and galleries."
Lee further details that Korean art lovers have always been open to learning and educating themselves about the newest galleries, but they also love to share their own information and thoughts on certain works. With the help of social media, word of these new artists and showings has been able to spread quickly and has garnered a younger audience constantly ready to talk about contemporary art. Paired with South Korea's rich traditions in folk art and ceramics, it only felt fitting for Frieze to officially name Seoul as its new art hub.
"Frieze looks to cities where there is a vast appreciation of culture," explains Lee. "Korean culture has already gained recognition on a global scale, and this is fueling interest in visiting the country and paying attention to everything that is coming out of Korea—all of this makes it a great place for a fair."
The new fair at the COEX center will feature over 110 galleries mostly stemming from Asian countries, along with many well-recognized international names. Frieze Seoul will also introduce a new section called "Frieze Masters" which illustrates thousands of years of art history through a contemporary lens. Another highlight includes the "Focus Asia" exhibit, curated by Christopher Y. Lew and Hyejung Jang, which features 10 solo artist presentations from young Asia-based galleries, including some of the most promising Korean galleries.
Beyond showcasing some of the world's greatest contemporary artists, Lee sees Frieze Seoul as a platform to introduce international art fans to the countless museums, non-profit organizations, and galleries accelerating Korean art to the front of everyone's mind.
"I can’t wait for our opening day—to bring everyone together under one roof in Seoul. I also can’t wait for the visitor’s reaction to the city itself, and I am happy this provides an opportunity for the city to shine."
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