Art Market

6 Artists to Discover at Kiaf Seoul 2022

Osman Can Yerebakan
Sep 6, 2022 12:39AM

Installation view of Carvalho Park’s booth at Kiaf Seoul, 2022. Courtesy of Carvalho Park and Kiaf.

While Seoul is lauded as the new art destination in Asia through a western perspective, the Korean capital has long been immersed in art. A stroll through its bustling neighborhoods, such as Hannam and Samcheong, promises numerous big and small galleries, people selling art on the streets, and announcements for exhibitions happening across the city. Add to this prevalent energy the legacy of influential contemporary art movements, such as Dansaekhwa and Space and Time, which both emerged in Seoul, as well as established international biennials in Busan and Gwangju.

Kiaf Seoul, founded by the 46-year-old organization Galleries Association of Korea, has been operating within Seoul’s ecosystem since 2002. This year, however, the art fair has opened its most international edition to date with the company of Frieze, proving that joining forces in a competitive market can indeed yield a win-win.


The 21st iteration of Kiaf, occupying the first floor of the majestic convention center COEX, includes 164 exhibitors from 17 countries. Its global roster features U.S. galleries such as Anat Ebgi, Carvalho Park, and Rachel Uffner Gallery, as well as Peres Project, Axel Vervoordt Gallery, Perrotin, and Esther Schipper from Europe. The last two are in fact in Seoul longer than the fair’s run through September 6, as both Perrotin and Esther Schipper are among numerous western galleries—Gladstone Gallery, Thaddaeus Ropac, Pace Gallery, König Galerie, and Lehmann Maupin to name a few—that have opened outposts around town in the last year or so.

Additionally, the satellite Kiaf Plus, which opened a day earlier on September 1st, is located within a 15-minute drive from the main show and offers a selection of booths with emerging artists and works in new media, particularly NFTs. For example, NFT platform Etnah is exhibiting their collaboration with Kenny Scharf.

Installation view of Etnah’s booth at Kiaf Plus, 2022. Courtesy of Etnah and Kiaf.

“We have been working to develop this network for a while,” explained Kim Donghyun, chief manager of Galleries Association of Korea, noting that the current growth “is an organic outcome of our two-decade commitment to Kiaf,” as he described. Korea’s economic boom in the last few decades and the rise of a new collector profile is another important factor. “Living with art has become a lifestyle,” Kim added. “The collectors here are curious to broaden their perspectives on what contemporary art is.”

He noted that Kiaf plays a critical role in educating the new generation of collectors, whether they descend from collecting families or are just starting to dip their toes. International powerhouses opening shops are what Kim considers “a 50% benefit and 50% challenge to the local scene,” as he said. Against the risk of losing their collector bases to brand names, local galleries have been prompted to push their programming to compete with the newcomers.

Yun Kyung Jeong
FS-two spot, 2022
Graphite on Pink

This response led to various impressive sale figures across the booths by Kiaf Seoul’s second day on September 3rd. Seoul’s four-decade-old Kukje Gallery sold a new Ha Chong-Hyun painting on hemp cloth for a range of $350,000 to $420,000, as well as a mixed media Suki Seokyeong Kang work for the range of $75,000 and $83,000. At Kiaf Plus, local gallery Cylinder sold 10 Tristan Pigott paintings in a range between ₩18,000,000 and ₩1,800,000 ($13,200 to $1,321).

Artsy roamed Kiaf Seoul’s booths to share six of the most exciting artists of Korean descent to know.

Se Yoon Park

Carvalho Park, Booth B30

Installation view of Carvalho Park’s booth at Kiaf Seoul, 2022. Courtesy of Carvalho Park and Kiaf.

The Brooklyn-based art and design gallery Carvalho Park is in fact half Korean by blood through its co-founder artist Se Yoon Park. The three-year-old gallery includes in its booth works by roster artists such as Yulia Iosilzon, Krista Louise Smith, and Rosalind Tallmadge, in addition to Park, whose black-brown tar, polyamide, polyester resin, and baltic birchwood sculpture Traveled by dark feet and dark wings (2022) blends gentleness with rigidity. The 60-inch-tall abstraction of a tree is both mysterious and immediate, its geometric branches and hollow sprouts rendering nature’s growth with a mathematical precision. Titled after a line in Wendell Berry’s poem “To Know the Dark,” the sculpture is contemplative in its silhouette and determined in its material choices.

Young Do Jeong

PKM Gallery, Booth B13

Installation view of PKM Gallery’s booth at Kiaf Seoul, 2022. Courtesy of PKM Gallery and Kiaf.

Seoul-based painter Young Do Jeong’s exuberantly chaotic painting Rabbit-allergic bear (2022) is among many offerings at the established, local PKM Gallery’s large booth, which blends Korean artists with international names. True to its humorous title, the acrylic, graphite, and color pencil work is a radiant exercise on abstraction’s explosive potential through color and form. Within the abstraction, a few areas hint at figuration—such as a human hand and a bear claw—but the real pleasure in Jeong’s free dance with his mediums and bright colors lies in his semblances of things: potentially a snarky bird, a spiky mountain, or a stretched leg—all left to the viewer’s introspective eye to decide.

Lee Kun-Yong

Gallery Hyundai, Booth A37

Installation view of Gallery Hyundai’s booth at Kiaf Seoul, 2022. Courtesy of Gallery Hyundai and Kiaf.

Like Seoul’s other international galleries Kukje Gallery and Jason Haam, Gallery Hyundai exhibits both at Kiaf and Frieze to cross-pollinate a dialogue between different collectors. At Kiaf Seoul, the booth includes international figures such as Robert Indiana and Iván Navarro, alongside Korean artists Lee Kang-So and Lee Kun-Yong. The latter, an important figure in Korean avant-garde and performance art, is represented with a brand new work from his performative painting series. Titled Bodyscape 76-3-2022, the acrylic work draws a pretzel-like form on canvas based on the 80-year-old artist’s wingspan. Lee’s body-based, canvas works rely on movement’s essential gestures as well as painting’s role in chronicling a moment in time. Painted in pink and two shades of blue, the circular form bends inwards, resulting in gentle drips that give the work a breathing sensation as if it had just come out of the artist’s studio.

Jongsuk Yoon

Johyun Gallery, Booth A27

Installation view of Johyun Gallery’s booth at Kiaf Seoul, 2022. Courtesy of Johyun Gallery and Kiaf.

Another established local fixture, Johyun Gallery’s booth boasts a Korean-heavy checklist, including Park Seo-bo, Lee Kwang-Ho, and Lee Bae, in addition to Bosco Sodi and Claude Viallat. Jongsuk Yoon’s painting Kumgangsan (2022) is a literal scene-stealer with its mammoth scale and depiction of a dreamscape in a hazy color palette. The Dusseldorf-based artist, who started her massive paintings a decade ago, commands over her amply scaled surface but avoids a heavily populated lexicon. Rather, her ethereal representation of a mountainous horizon—which might as well be rock formations or bodies lying together—promises generous room to breathe and a slow exploration of its details.

Se-Yeol Oh

Hakgojae Gallery, Booth A33

Installation view of Hakgojae Gallery’s booth at Kiaf Seoul, 2022. Courtesy of Hakgojae Gallery and Kiaf.

Another local establishment with dual representation on both of COEX’s two floors, Hakgojae Gallery joins Kiaf with a long list of Korean artists, including the nation’s households Young Ha Park and Nam June Paik. Se-Yeol Oh’s large-scale, untitled painting from this year radiates a bold yellow hue, mixing a pop sensibility with the artist’s meticulous layering of paint on canvas. Covered with text and numbers, as well as shapes that include Korea’s popular sweet treat Choco Pie, the painting is a system of internal and public contemplation. Whimsical and penetrative, Oh’s visual language is everyday with the addition of familiar figures that are also subjective through the artist’s configuration of numbers and letters throughout the surface.

Yun Kyung Jeong

Graphite on Pink, Booth S01

Installation view of Graphite on Pink’s booth at Kiaf Seoul, 2022. Courtesy of Graphite on Pink and Kiaf.

Seoul’s young gallery Graphite on Pink pulls visitors into its solo booth with abstract paintings by the London-based artist Yun Kyung Jeong. Nine variously scaled paintings, all from 2022, possess an energetic contrast through their pastel hues and erratic gestures. Large painterly touches and intricate motifs occupy the paintings’ surfaces while insistent colorations and occasional bulbous shapes morph around the corners. A closer inspection reveals Jeong’s subtle pen marks among her bolder brushstrokes that attempt to dominate the unprimed canvases.

Osman Can Yerebakan