Seoul is set to get a new fair in November focused on art and design, after the company organising Art Busan, a fair in the country’s south, secured funding to open an event in the capital. The inaugural DEFINE Seoul (1-5 November, titled after “design” and “fine art”), will feature around 35 exhibitors and take place in the Seongsu design district, centred around the Layer Studio cultural complex, but with events spilling out into design studios and other locations across the neighbourhood.
“We are witnessing increased attention on Korea’s art and cultural scene from abroad like never before,” says Seokho Jeong, Art Busan’s managing director. Indeed, since the launch of Frieze Seoul, the city has seemingly cemented itself as a key market hub, but Jeong says that Art Busan has been “carefully monitoring the market” since well before the advent of Frieze Seoul, and was “considering various possibilities to expand prior to Covid”. In 2020, Art Busan staged a separate design section at its Busan fair, as a trial run for a standalone event.
While Frieze Seoul caters more to Western tastes, the organisers of DEFINE say their fair will focus on an “eastern aesthetic and Korean heritage”. The interior designer Teo Yang, who has joined the fair as its artistic director, will organise the inaugural edition around the theme of “A look within matter”.
The Seoul fair represents a big step up for the Art Busan brand, which has staged an annual fair in Busan since 2012. Jeong says that Art Busan will continue to expand in 2024, both in offline and digital settings, but will remain a brand “focused on the art market”. Nonetheless, he says that “often, fun ideas pop up when we collaborate with or monitor what is happening in other industries”. The first funding round, which raised an undisclosed sum, was supported by Sanghun Kim, former chief executive of Naver; Kelvin Dongho Kim, chief executive of Korea Credit Data (KCD); Tony Lyu, venture partner at SoftBank Ventures Asia; and Simon Seojoon Kim, chief executive of Hashed. The next funding round will take place in autumn next year.