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Art Markets: What About South Korea?

Art Markets: What About South Korea?
November 20, 2018 Art World Forum
In Editor's Picks
Art World Forum-London 2018-South Korea-Sunju-Lee

With a notable focus on South Korea in the Art Basel and UBS Art Market Report 2018, quoting its increased growth rates and an impressive 5/50 most exhibited artists by region at art fairs in 2017, Art World Forum catches up with Sunju Lee, Director of ARTWA and STARTnet, to better understand South Korea, its art market and collectors’ habits.

As the Director of a platform which promotes and accelerates the career of emerging artists, Sunju lists the first five things we should know:

1. The South Korean art market is very small in comparison to Greater Asia or indeed the West, valuing at an estimated $400M. Even though Contemporary Art is a buzzword of sorts, few people truly understand the business side of the market and is therefore underdeveloped.

That said, our creative scene and local practitioners have so much potential, which is why I have taken it upon myself to promote them, and their works, as much as possible.

2. Timing is very important. Art doesn’t evolve in solitude but rather in correlation to an environment’s political and socio-cultural influences. As the world knows, there is an ongoing conflict between North and South Korea. The media plays its role is passing the messages on, reporting on our art scene, but we don’t have the necessary channels or connections with established platforms to maximise our outreach.

3. In the context of the 317 privately funded museums around the world, 45 of them can be found in South Korea, and an impressive 13 are based in the capital, Seoul. Despite the hype, Korean collectors fall under two categories:

  • Very traditional with their eye set on blue-chip artists valued above $1M
  • New generation collectors, who are swayed by social media and new technologies, relating more-so to the millennial mind-set

4. Local artists are frustrated by the lack of reputable and international platforms that have the traction to promote their work around the world.

5. The Korean annual income is rising and with it comes a slightly more lavish lifestyle. Responding to the growing wealth in Asia, there will undoubtedly be a greater engagement with emerging artists.