Over the past five years, the rise of the South Korean art market has earned Seoul a place alongside Hong Kong as a regional hub for contemporary art. Seoul offers financial advantages comparable to those of its Chinese counterpart – no import tax, VAT or transfer tax – as well as a sales tax exemption for works under 60 million KRW (approximately $50,000), making it an extremely attractive business environment for art dealers and collectors. look alike.
The Korean capital has attracted a growing number of Western galleries in recent years, including Perrotin, Pace and Lehmann Maupin; in 2022, Gladstone, Peres Projects and Esther Schipper are also set to open spaces in the city. But the art world‘s biggest buy-in comes in the form of Frieze Seoul, which will launch its first fair in Asia here in the fall of 2022 and cement the city’s rise as the true world capital of art. art that could one day rival Hong Kong.
Faced with increasing regulations aimed at neutralizing the country’s booming real estate market, many wealthy Koreans are turning to other ways to diversify their investment portfolios, including contemporary art. At the origin of this outbreak of the national art market, a booming class of collectors eager to relax their financial means while increasing their cultural capital. Below, we spotlight some of the hottest young collectors in Seoul’s burgeoning art scene.
Jae Myung Noh
Occupation: Education entrepreneur, operator of academies providing education to children.
What’s in the collection: Approximately 150 works of art, with a focus on figurative works of painting and sculpture by emerging and mid-career artists, including David Altmejd, Paolo Salvador, Manuel Solano, Stanislava Kovalcikova, Julien Ceccaldi, Djordje Ozbolt and Ekene Emecheta Stanley. Noh also collects young emerging Korean artists such as Hyun Nahm, Jiwon Choi and Seungcheol Ok.
Distinguishing factor: Although he started collecting art and toy art while still in high school, after marrying pianist SoHyun Park in 2018, Noh started collecting art with his woman. Since then, the couple have actively expanded and diversified their collection, becoming two of the most talked about young collectors in Seoul.
Where he shops: Noh is a frequent bidder and avid follower of major auctions, as well as a regular presence at Art Basel Miami and Art Basel Hong Kong. He counts Peres Projects (Berlin), Xavier Hufkens (Brussels), Villazan (Madrid) and KaiKai KiKi (Tokyo) among his favorite galleries.
Recent purchase: A painting by Pam Evelyn of Peres Projects. Although the artist is still in his twenties, Noh sees a compelling mix of skill and freshness in his work which he finds particularly appealing.
Occupation: Interior designer and director of Teoyang Studio, which was selected as one of the top 100 design studios in the world in 2021 by Phaidon Books.
What’s in the collection: A diverse range of works ranging from antiques to contemporary art, with an affinity for the works of Korean Dansaekhwa masters. Contemporary artists in its collection include Jean-Michel Othoniel, Kiki Smith, Elmgreen & Dragset, Haegue Yang, Georg Baselitz, Lee Bul, Lee Bae and Zhao Zhao.
Distinguishing factor: Yang lives and works in two traditional Korean languages hanok residences, built in 1917 and 1931, connected by a common courtyard. Although over a century old, her home embraces contemporary art in a very natural way, and Yang hopes to one day turn it into a private gallery.
Where he shops: Kukje Gallery (Seoul), where he recently acquired a sculpture from Elmgreen & Dragset, as well as art fairs including Art Basel and KIAF.
Fun fact: When he was 13, Yang bought a traditional 16th-century Korean gargoyle that now sits on the roof of his residence, overlooking his library.
So young Lee
Occupation: Art educator and author of nearly a dozen books on art and collecting.
What’s in the collection: Around 200 works of art with a focus on female artists. In particular, Lee collects artists who may have been overlooked during their lifetime, including painters Etel Adnan, Carmen Herrera, Rosemarie Casotoro and Carla Prina, as well as sculptors Helen Pashgian, Lydia Okumura and Ann Veronica Janssens. She also actively supports Korean female artists of her own generation, including Min ha Park, Hejum Bä, and Goen Choi, as well as emerging male artists like Haneyl Choi, Noh-wan Park, and Kim Hansaem.
Distinguishing factor: Lee runs numerous programs that provide arts education to Korean audiences across a demographic range, from children to seniors, from museum groups to corporate groups. It also caters to the growing class of Korean art collectors with various educational offerings focusing on skill and confidence in buying art and building art collections.
Where she shops: Seoul-based galleries run by young art dealers, such as P21, Whistle, Thisweekendroom and Space Willing N Dealing, as well as international galleries with a presence in Seoul such as Thaddaeus Ropac, Lehmann Maupin, Esther Schipper and Various Small Fires.
Fun fact: Lee is expected to publish a new book in 2022 that will serve as an introductory guide for readers who are relatively new to art collecting.
Occupation: Food and beverage entrepreneur and former fashion executive.
What’s in the collection: About 100 works of art with various collections of Korean modern and contemporary art. Highlights include Dansaekhwa masters Lee Ufan, Chung Sang-hwa and Park Seo-bo; avant-garde pioneers like Lee Kun-Yong and Kim Ku-lim; and contemporary artists including Lee Bae and Kim Chong-hak. Shim also collects international contemporary artists like Hernan Bas, Andy Denzler, Yayoi Kusama and Joel Shapiro.
Distinctive features: Shim credits her vast experience in the fashion industry with helping her develop her taste for contemporary art; Prior to establishing his food and beverage businesses, Shim spent 13 years building Korea’s largest online fashion platform, MUSINSA, where he continues to serve as an advisor.
His wine bar, OPNNG, operates as a cultural space that integrates art, design and sound into the guest experience. Shim plans to open a private museum for his collection in the distant future, with the OPNNG serving as a first step towards that goal.
Where he shops: Seoul-based galleries Hyundai, Kukje and 313 Art Project, national art fairs KIAF and Art Busan, and national auction houses K-Auction and Seoul Auction.
Recent purchase: Shim recently acquired “Alteration 76-1 (For the Man who Drew behind the Picture Plane)” by Lee Kun-Yong from Hyundai Gallery after encountering the work at the Busan Museum of Art during the artist’s retrospective in 2019.
Occupation: Director of a private wealth management group and vice-president of a real estate investment company.
What‘s in the collection: Some 150 works of art through the mediums of painting, sculpture and works on paper. Its collection is oriented towards international contemporary artists, with notable works by Julian Schnabel, Erwin Wurm, Ed Ruscha, Aaron Garber Maikovska, Sterling Ruby, Mary Corse, Izumi Kato, Brice Guilbert, Adam Pendleton, Joyce Pensato, Eddie Martinez, Andre Butzer, and Alvaro Barrington.
Distinguishing factor: In addition to his contemporary art collection, Lee also has a collection of over 500 art toys he has amassed since his mid-twenties, including pieces by Kaws, Javier Calleja, Haroshi, Junseok Kang, Yoshitomo Nara, Barry McGee, Michael Lau, Jean Julien, Takashi Murakami and James Jean.
Where he shops: Art Basel, Frieze and FIAC, international galleries that operate spaces in Seoul, including Pace, Thaddaeus Ropac and Perrotin, as well as Gagosian, Blum & Poe and David Zwirner.
Recent purchase: Lee recently added a great collage work by Simon Fujiwara to his collection after meeting the artist and learning about his practice during a live Zoom tour hosted by Esther Schipper Gallery.
Follow Artnet News on Facebook:
Want to stay one step ahead of the art world? Subscribe to our newsletter to receive breaking news, revealing interviews and incisive reviews that move the conversation forward.