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Korean Companies Establish Sponsorship Relations with International Art Museums

South Korea has a relatively short history of corporate sponsorship in the arts, but many companies today provide various forms of support for the development of contemporary art.

Companies have increasingly joined the art world. For example, many entrepreneurs and companies have been building their own art collections and museums or holding their own art-related events, such as art fairs. 

There are fewer examples of companies directly supporting art museums. Most of the cases are conducted by large conglomerates funding exhibitions and programs of heavyweight art museums. Yet, these cases have been fostering contemporary art in a way museums could not achieve by themselves. 

Exterior view of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York during the YCC Party. Courtesy of the museum.

The Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation recently announced that they are partnering with LG, including LG Corporation, LG Electronics, and LG Display, working at the intersection of art and technology through The LG Guggenheim Art and Technology Initiative for five years. 

LG, a South Korean multinational conglomerate, and the Guggenheim Museums and Foundation, which runs museums in New York, Venice, Bilbao, and Abu Dhabi, said they would support artists who combine art and technology through various programs until 2027.

The initiative will establish the LG Guggenheim Award, which will annually recognize an artist who works on digital and technology-based art with an unrestricted honorarium of $100,000. The award will be juried by an international panel of art professionals, and its first recipient will be announced at the YCC (Young Collectors Council) Party in the spring of 2023.

The Guggenheim’s Young Collectors Council (YCC) is a group of young professionals who support the museum’s landmark building, exhibitions, collection, and educational programs, and the YCC Party is one of the most important annual fundraising events for the Guggenheim. LG Display will be providing support for this event for the next five years. 

The initiative will also be supported by the appointment of an LG Electronics Assistant Curator who will be working on increasing understanding and supporting artists who work on computer-based hardware, the internet, augmented and virtual reality software, artificial intelligence, non-fungible tokens (NFTs), the metaverse, and other burgeoning technologies. 

Installation view of the exhibition "Haegue Yang: Handles" at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), New York. October 21, 2019–February 28, 2021. IN2427.1. Photograph by Denis Doorly.

The Hyundai Group, another South Korean multinational conglomerate, is one of the Korean companies active in sponsoring contemporary art. The company even has its own art team to provide various support to the visual arts field.

Hyundai Motor Group has been in long-term partnerships with a number of museums, including the National Museum of Contemporary Art, Korea (MMCA), London’s Tate Modern, and the LA County Museum of Art (LACMA). 

Hyundai Card, a subsidiary of Hyundai Motor Group, also has been collaborating with major art museums inside and outside Korea. In partnership with the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) since 2006, Hyundai Card has been providing complimentary admission to MoMA to Hyundai card holders.

In addition, the company sponsored the exhibition programs at the museum for fourteen years, beginning in 2006. One of the sponsored exhibitions was Haegue Yang’s first solo exhibition Handles at the museum in 2019.

In 2010, Hyundai Card and MoMA also ran a joint internship program for three years and have been funding the Curatorial Exchange Programs since 2011. In cooperation with MoMA and Korea’s MMCA, Hyundai Card supported the ‘Young Architects Program’ to discover talented architects in Korea who worked on sustainable architecture between 2014 and 2017.

Hyundai Card currently is the exclusive sponsor of the “Hyundai Card Performance Series,” which will present diverse live events and programming dedicated to performance, music, sound, and moving image at MoMA.

The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, an art museum designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. © The Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation

On the other hand, Samsung Group was most active in sponsoring the arts in 2010. Sponsorship was given to arts and culture, including music and performance, and the group has supported various programs at international art museums outside the country.

In 2010, the Samsung Foundation of Culture funded the position of the Samsung Senior Curator of Asian Art at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York. Their support was aimed to highlight art from beyond the Western world, especially Asian Contemporary Art, to open a new discourse in the context of international modernism and contemporary practice. Alexandra Munroe held the title, and she has been working at the Guggenheim since 2006.

Another example is Samsung Electronics sponsoring a retrospective exhibition of Nam June Paik (1932–2006), one of the most innovative video artists of the 20th century, at the Tate Liverpool in London. The company has provided LED monitors, HD projectors, 3D-enabled LED monitors, and MP3 players to enrich the visitor experience at the exhibition.

Many companies sponsor international art museums to increase their brand value and further more to foster contemporary art. Through their collaboration with international museums, South Korean corporates are also providing opportunities for the public to appreciate various aspects of art by adding innovative programs and putting new perspectives on the current art world.

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