A Korean gallerist is staging a new boutique art fair in London this summer to showcase emerging talents from her home country in a bid to boost the exposure of contemporary K-art abroad.
Featuring more than 30 artists, the first edition of Korean Art London (KAL) will take place at Mall Galleries near Trafalgar Square from July 7 to 22. Riding on the Korean Wave phenomenon, and in the wake of the well-received exhibition at the Victoria & Albert Museum, “Hallyu! The Korean Wave,” the three-week event is branded as a visual art festival. It will feature an art fair, a site-specific exhibition, and collaborative off-site events.
The main fair and show will take up three exhibition spaces, showcasing a range of artworks from paintings to sculptures and mixed media; it will also include some product design. Rok Hee Hwang, the dealer behind KAL, told Artnet News that the event is mainly self-funded and that she has already committed to three editions.
Hwang tested the waters last year by staging two pop-up shows in London’s Notting Hill area; this year’s full launch is a step up from that previous effort while paving a way for the future, as she plans to open a gallery in London and settle in the U.K. capital.
“With my long-term future in mind, it made sense to establish an event that promotes my country’s visual art; something that would create a legacy,” Hwang told Artnet News.
Rather than coming from the art hubs in South Korea such as Seoul and Busan, Hwang is based in the seaside city of Gangneung, where she founded and runs Mews Gallery.
The dealer completed her schooling in New Zealand, and she said this experience of growing up away from home contributed to her relatively objective view of the Korean art scene. “Korea’s market has an overtly commercial approach to displaying art,” she said. “The quality of the work is not a priority. This is not a way of doing business that I am interested in.”
The art fair part of KAL, according Hwang, is an “artists’ fair.” Each of the around 30 artists participating will be given a solo booth, presenting works priced between a few hundred pounds to thousands of pounds. Featured artists were selected through an open call that was followed by individual studio visits and interviews; the artist’s practices, Hwang noted, involve the adaptation of ancient traditions and craft skills into contemporary expressions.
To launch the fair, Hwang will be working with curators Vittoria Beltrane and Genie Ahn. “Many of the artists do not have gallery representation yet. By providing a platform in one of the world’s major art hubs, I aim to not just showcase the variety and world-class quality of Korean contemporary art, but also to jump-start their international careers,” the dealer said.
In exchange, Hwang, a member of the Gangneung chapter of the Federation of Artistic and Cultural Organization of Korea, also hoped to bring artists from the U.K. to Gangneung in the future.