The Korean art market performed at record levels, reaching about 922.3 billion KRW (approximately $770.5 million) in sales in 2021, with a year-on-year increase of 183.2% in auction sales and 229.7% in art fair sales, according to the ‘Korean Art Market Settlement Conference’ held by the Korea Arts Management Service (KAMS). The total sales volume is more than double the amount compared to 329.1 billion KRW in 2020 and 381.2 billion KRW in 2019.
Experts predict the Korean art market will continue to grow in the next nine months. As a number of big-name galleries opened branches in Korea last year, with several more considering opening Seoul outposts, and the world-renowned art fair Frieze being held in Seoul in concert with one of Korea’s largest art fairs, KIAF, this September, there are hopes and anticipation that the market will at least remain flat from last year’s levels.
Amidst the COVID-19 crisis, when the art market showed low growth, it was the art fairs that sent up flares signaling the boom in the local art market last year. Most of the major art fairs in Korea have reported hitting record highs in 2021.
As optimism reigns regarding this year’s art fair market as well, we have listed three major Korean art fairs scheduled for the first half of 2022.
The Galleries Art Fair 2022, organized by the Galleries Association of Korea, will be held at SETEC in Seoul from March 16 to 20, 2022, including the VIP preview. This year, 143 galleries will participate the fair, the most ever.
The Galleries Art Fair, celebrating its 40th anniversary, is one of the first and longest-running art fairs in Korea. As one of the first major art fairs, it served as a signal to gauge the flow of the 2021 art market. The pandemic has had an unprecedented impact on the art market in 2020, and no one was able to anticipate a boom in 2021 until the Galleries Art Fair recorded approximately 48,000 visitors and 7.2 billion KRW in sales. The number of visitors has more than tripled and sales more than doubled compared to 2020. After the Galleries Art Fair was held last year, following art fairs also reported that they achieved new records in sales.
Organized by the Galleries Association of Busan, the 11th Busan Annual Market of Art (BAMA) will be held in BEXCO, Busan, from April 7 to April 10, 2022. This year, 162 galleries will participate, including established international galleries such as Esther Schipper and König Galerie.
Prior to hosting the fair, BAMA held the 2022 BAMA Preview in The Hyundai Seoul, a preliminary event involving twenty-three galleries, from February 23 to March 6, 2022, at the recently opened department store The Hyundai Seoul. It was reported that the works of Lee Yelin, Yang Jong Yong, Gammanzi, Jackson Shim, and Kim Woo Jin were sold out during the event, and, at the 2022 BAMA auction show, fourteen works by Kwon Soon Ik, Yoyojin, Yoo Choong Mok, and Kim Kang Yong were auctioned off, recording sales of more than 100 million KRW in two hours.
In 2021, the show achieved a new record of galleries, with 176 participating the show, which welcomed 40,000 visitors with a record sale of about 6.5 billion KRW.
Art Busan, one of the largest art fairs in Korea, will be held from May 12 to 15 at BEXCO in Busan.
While the two art fairs introduced above are organized by gallery associations, Art Busan is a private art fair founded by Sohn Younghee in June 2012. With the goal of developing the art culture of Busan city, the fair aims to become more than just a commercial art fair and to develop into a community-based art event through partnerships with the local community as well as providing fair visitors with various artistic experiences, such as exhibiting interactive art projects for public purposes. International galleries, such as Esther Schipper, König Galerie, Peres Projects, and Thaddaeus Ropac, participated in the fair.
In 2021, 80,000 people, the largest number of visitors ever, visited Art Busan and recorded the highest sales total, reaching 35 billion KRW.