The Preview art fair, now in its third year, was held from April 19 to April 23 under the title The Preview Seongsu with Shinhan Card. The Preview is an art fair that connects a variety of young galleries, new art spaces, and emerging artists.
Art fairs act as a crucial platform for the art market, but their model and structure do not always have a positive impact on the industry. Market logic dictates that art fairs choose exhibitors who have more recognized artists and artworks that sell well. This can be disadvantageous for young galleries and emerging artists to break into the art market.
To overcome this drawback in art fairs, a number of alternative models began to emerge in the mid-1990s in Korea. These art fairs pursue different strategies from the existing art fairs that overlook emerging artists in favor of more recognized ones.
These alternative art fairs take various forms, such as accepting curators or artists as exhibitors instead of galleries or dealers; selling works that are created by young artists or works that are relatively inexpensive; or showcasing different genres instead of paintings or prints, which are the major art forms covered by art fairs.
One of the first alternative art fairs to emerge in South Korea was MANIF. From 1995 to 2021, MANIF was an art fair that accepted artists who submitted their own work instead of gallerists.
Also, a number of alternative art fairs in Korea participate in the government-supported Visual Artists Market program, which was established in 2015. The program was established to promote the sale of artworks, encourage people to enjoy art, spread the culture of art collecting and revitalize visual art in non-metropolitan areas.
The characteristics of these alternative art fairs can be summarized as fairs that serve as a networking platform for emerging artists, young collectors and new independent art spaces, which are spaces that have emerged in Korea for young artists, curators and critics to connect with each other.
First held in 2021, The Preview can be described as an alternative form of art fair because it connects various young galleries, new art spaces and emerging artists.
Many alternative art fairs end up being one-off events due to limited financial resources, operational structure issues or competition from other art fairs. But The Preview is organized by the financial company Shinhan Card, so it is relatively free from financial constraints.
This year, The Preview art fair held its third edition under the title The Preview Seongsu with Shinhan Card from April 19 through April 23, including the VIP opening, at SFactory in Seongsu, Seoul. This year’s edition featured 56 galleries and about 230 artists.
This year’s fair attracted about 18,000 visitors, about 65% of whom were millennials and Generation Z. Artwork sales exceeded 1.2 billion Korean won. The first edition’s sales were about 600 million Korean won. According to Shinhan Card, the cumulative sales to date have reached 2.8 billion Korean won.
Most of the participating exhibitors were young galleries or art spaces that have been showing different activities from established galleries, such as showcasing the works of young artists. Among the galleries that have participated in the fair since its first edition are ThisWeekendRoom (Seoul), Regina Gallery (Seoul), Cylinder (Seoul), Obscura (Seoul), drawingRoom (Seoul), Sahng-up Gallery (Seoul), OBJECTHOOD (Busan), Void Gallery (Daegu), Vohm Gallery (Seoul) and Voda Gallery (Seoul).
The Preview art fair’s goal is to highlight new galleries, artists and artworks that will lead the future Korean art scene. To do this, it seeks to build a symbiotic relationship within an art market system in which art fairs, galleries and artists can coexist and create an environment where galleries can fulfill their primary role of discovering and nurturing new artists.
The Preview also aims to expand the art ecosystem by bringing together independent and emerging exhibition spaces in one place to create a contact point with the established art market as well as to embrace the work of younger generations to which the existing art market needs to pay attention.
To achieve these goals, the showcased artworks were priced between 100,000 KRW and 1 million KRW (approximately 100 USD to 1,000 USD), a price range at which beginners can easily start an art collection. They also pursued several branding and promotional methods to create a trendy atmosphere.
Yet, the fair did not set limits on the artists’ age or experience level. This year’s fair featured mid-career artists who were mostly introduced by biennials and nonprofit institutions but had never been connected to the commercial art world. Participating for the first time this year, PlaceMAK presented the works of four artists in their 40s, including Bang Eun-Kyum, Park Chelho, Son Mi Jung and Woopsyang.
Many visitors commented that the fair had a trendy vibe with unique and experimental works by young artists showcasing a wide range of genres, from paintings and installations to digital artworks, and was refreshing with booths that showed the identity of the galleries and their artists.
Although The Preview art fair is only three years old, many market-watchers see the fair as an alternative model to existing art fairs.