The volume of transactions in the Korean art market reached 494.2 billion KRW (approximately $420 million) in 2017 but gradually fell to 414.7 billion KRW ($352 million) in 2019. The total value of the Korean art market in 2020 has not yet been counted, but the market is projected to shrink as a result of the global economic contraction caused by the COVID-19.
For this reason, the Korean art market was expected to witness negative growth until last February.
Contrary to expectations, however, the art market started to draw a sharp rising curve after March.
The Galleries Art Fair, which was the first art fair of 2021 held in Seoul, recorded 48,000 visitors and 7.2 billion KRW ($6 million) in sales. The number of visitors tripled compared to that in 2020 and showed an increase of more than 30 percent from 2019, before the outbreak of COVID-19.
The Busan Annual Market of Art (BAMA) was held in Busan, South Korea’s second-most populous city after Seoul, in April and exceeded its sales record, generating 6.5 billion KRW ($5.5 million). The number of visitors was about 40,000, down 20,000 from 2020, but sales increased by 500 million KRW.
Art Busan, another art fair in Busan, was held in May and attracted more than 80,000 people with record-breaking sales of 35 billion KRW ($29.4 million). This was 4 billion KRW higher than the sales result of the 2019 Korea International Art Fair (KIAF), the largest art fair in Korea, making it the highest-selling art fair to this day in the country.
A series of positive results were reported at other art fairs held in the first half of the year. And the Korean art market is projected to continue the run of success in the second half as well.
KIAF, which is scheduled to be held in October, announced that they will collaborate with Frieze to have a joint fair in 2022, and this news is expected to lead to continued growth in the art fair sector throughout the second half of the year.
The upward trend was also observed in the auction market. The Korea Art Price Appraisal Association tallied the sales results of eight auction companies from January to June 2021, and the total transaction amount of the Korean art auction market reached 143.8 billion KRW ($121 million) in the first half of this year. This number far exceeded the total transactions in 2020, which is 115.3 billion KRW($98 million).