Spring 2024 Korean Art Fairs, From Breeze to ART OnO

Jonathan Feel
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Korean art fairs are stretching out one after another this spring. This will serve as an opportunity to gauge the landscape and trend of the domestic art market this year and to judge whether the Korean art market will rebound from the current downturn.

Marking its 42nd anniversary this year, Galleries Art Fair was held for five days from April 3, 2024, with 156 galleries displaying more than 10,000 pieces. More than 58,000 visitors attended. The Galleries Association of Korea, which hosted the event, did not disclose the sales figures. Participating galleries gave weight to emerging artists to suit the tastes of Millennial-Generation Z (MZ) generation collectors. Accordingly, works by new artists reportedly showed strong sales.

Galleries Art Fair 2024 Exhibition View. Image courtesy of Galleries Art Fair Operating Committee.
Galleries Art Fair 2024 Exhibition View. Image courtesy of Galleries Art Fair Operating Committee.

In particular, a special exhibition called “Zoomin,” which collected works by artists under age 39, drew attention. Some 570 artists applied and ten selected works were on display. The awards were given to three artists through audience voting and expert screening. “It was another opportunity for existing collectors to discover tastes and for new collectors to enter the art market,” said Hwang Dalseong, president of the Galleries Association of Korea.

Following this, the 2024 Breeze Art Fair opened at the Hangaram Art Museum in Seoul Arts Center on April 18, and the new art fair called ART OnO opened at SETEC on April 19. All of them are focusing on discovering and introducing new and young artists. It seems that this has resulted in a decrease in demand for large-scale expensive artworks due to the economic downturn, while emerging artists’ works and MZ collectors’ tastes have matched. Attention is also focusing on whether this will help overcome the sluggish market atmosphere.

Celebrating its 11th anniversary this year, the Breeze Art Fair (hereinafter referred to as Breeze) will run until May 28. A total of 96 artists participated in the event this year, and more than 1,000 works with various prices ranging from about $73 to $14,000 were showcased. With its brand identity of artists introducing their artworks directly to an audience, Breeze has become a mecca for emerging artists. A Company, a social enterprise that operates Breeze, has been recruiting artists to participate in the art fair through open recruitment since 2012. This year, 928 artists applied for the event, the largest number ever. Notably, Breeze opened a global track for the first time this year, receiving applications from emerging artists from overseas, and five artists from the U.S., Germany, China, Taiwan, and Russia are visiting Korea to meet with visitors.

“Breeze is creating a new market that connects emerging artists and new collectors, with 25% of customers purchasing artworks every year for the first time,” fair director Jeong Ji Yeon said. “This year, we opened a global track for the first time, and artists from various countries applied, and we confirmed their interest and expectations for K-culture and the Korean art market.”

Visitors looking at works at the Breeze Art Fair last year. Image courtesy of Breeze Art Fair.
Visitors looking at works at the Breeze Art Fair last year. Image courtesy of Breeze Art Fair.

ART OnO (hereinafter referred to as OnO), which declared its distinction from existing art fairs, was held for the first time this year. Introduced by 33-year-old CEO Noh Jae-myung, OnO stands for “One and Only” and has the direction of “Young and Fresh but Classy.” More than 40 galleries from 15 countries participated in this year’s first event. A large number of galleries that are being introduced for the first time in Korea have participated in the event, while blue-chip artists and large galleries have also participated. “Rather than increasing the number of participating galleries, we want to show more interesting programs than the purpose of investment, along with the positive function of introducing Korean artists overseas and introducing foreign artists to Korea,” Noh said.

Next month, art fairs will take place in Daegu and Busan, not in Seoul, the capital of Korea. First, the Daegu International Art Fair (Diaf 2024) will be held from May 3 to May 5 at Exco in Daegu. Marking its 17th anniversary this year, the exhibition was held in November every year but was moved to May this year. A total of 110 galleries will participate, including some 30 galleries in Daegu, as well as overseas galleries from countries such as the U.S., France, Japan, and Russia. It has grown to the largest scale ever. Visitors can view works by Korean artists such as Lee Ufan and Lee Bae, as well as famous overseas artists such as Alex Katz, George Condo, David Gerstein, and Yayoi Kusama.

Busan Art week. Image courtesy of ART BUSAN Inc.
Busan Art week. Image courtesy of ART BUSAN Inc.

Starting with the VIP preview on May 9th, “Art Busan 2024” will be held at BEXCO in Busan until the 12th, with 127 galleries from 20 countries participating. Art Busan, which marks its 13th anniversary this year, explains that it is designed to allow visitors to see trends in the Asian art market simultaneously. In addition, the “Busan Art Week” event will be held in the second week of May, involving galleries, restaurants, resorts, hotels, and cultural spaces in Busan. 

“We have been thinking about a program that only Art Busan can do, and we will continue the event in that direction this year,” said Jeong Seok-ho, director of Art Busan. “We are planning to visit overseas VIP groups such as Hong Kong, Jakarta, and Sotheby’s Institute, which were cut off by COVID-19, and we are pushing for Art Busan to expand overseas next year.”

At a time when the Korean art market is in a recession, each art fair is focusing its efforts on discovering and introducing emerging artists. This trend coincides with changes surrounding the purchase and enjoyment of art in recent years. MZ collectors are emerging as new buyers, and the number of people who enjoy art is expanding. Therefore, these art fairs are expected to be a venue where visitors can check the potential for development of the domestic art market and the potential for K-art to enter the global market.

Find coverage of previous Korean art fairs on Auction Daily, including Breeze Art Fair 2022 and 2023

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Jonathan Feel
Jonathan Feel

Jonathan Feel is a reporter and editor for Auction Daily in Korea. He has been active in various fields such as the media, social economy, village community, and fair trade coffee industry and is writing. It is recognized that art is not far from society and the times, and that art can be a tool for the sustainability of the Earth and mankind. He hopes that good works and artists in Korea will meet with readers.

김이준수는 한국 주재 옥션데일리 필진이자 편집자이다. 언론, 사회적경제, 마을공동체, 공정무역 커피업계 등 다양한 분야에서 활동했고 글을 쓰고 있다. 예술이 사회·시대와 동떨어져 있지 않으며, 예술이 지구와 인류의 지속가능성을 위한 도구가 될 수 있음을 인식하고 있다. 한국의 좋은 작품과 아티스트를 많이 소개하고 싶다.

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