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The Purchasing Power of Young Korean Collectors at Art Busan 2022

There has been another unprecedented response to Art Busan during its 11th edition from May 12 to May 15, 2022. The second-largest art fair in South Korea has attracted record-setting crowds of 102,000 people, with 74.6 billion KRW (approximately $59 million) in sales, which was more than double last year’s 35 billion KRW. Before sales results were counted, Art Busan expected the result to reach 60 billion KRW ($50 million) as of Sunday.

Art Busan 2022 at BEXCO, Busan. Photo by Aproject Company.

Art Busan partly attributed the increase in sales and audiences to the number of galleries, since it has accepted 20% more compared to last year. This year, 133 galleries from 21 countries participated in the fair.

Yet the main factor was the influx of the young generation of art collectors under 40, accounting for about half of the total collectors. Young collectors led the art market last year, increasing the sales of young and emerging artists. Still, galleries mentioned that some new and young art collectors held back in purchasing artworks the previous year because they were unsure about what to buy and knew little about the artists. This year’s participating galleries noted that, compared to last year, they were more confident about what they wanted to buy.

As a number of local big-name galleries and international galleries have participated in the fair, there were also a number of young galleries that understand the taste of the growing younger collectors, who pay much attention to works by young Korean artists.

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Art Busan 2022 at BEXCO, Busan. Photo by Aproject Company.

Gallery Stan, one of the galleries popular among young Korean collectors, reported that they have sold 90% of the works at the fair, selling out works by So Youn Lee (b. 1984), Grafflex (b. 1982), Sambypen (b. 1992), Hyangmok Baik (b. 1990), and GBDAY (b. 1985), including other international artists, such as Taiwanese artist Ashin (b. 1975) and Taiwanese-American James Jean (b. 1979).

The works of Kwon Hana (b. 1990), who majored in illustration design and paints cartoon-like figures, were sold out at the 2GIL29 Gallery. Atelier Aki reported that they sold off all the works by Chae Jimin (b. 1983) and Jeong Seongjoon (b. 1981) on the first day of the fair, while Gallery Afternoon sold off 121 pieces of self-taught artist Kim Heesoo’s (b.1984) paintings in just three hours after the opening, achieving over 2 billion KRW in total. Kim is known for his unique style that is reminiscent of the Korean modern master Park Soo Keun, and one of his works is known to have been purchased by RM of BTS.

Peres Projects at Art Busan 2022, BEXCO, Busan. Photo by Aproject Company.

Gallery Kuzo, which participated in Art Busan for the first time, sold off ten works by Korean Canadian artist Casper Kang (b. 1981). The gallery also sold one of the Beyond the Red series by Red Mountain painter Lee Sea Hyun (b. 1967) to the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Korea (MMCA).

Local heavyweight Kukje Gallery reported that they sold off seven works by Lee Heejoon (b. 1988) in just one day. And international galleries have also reported sales of a number of young international artists; the Berlin-based Peres Projects, which just opened an outpost in Seoul, sold four works by Donna Huanca (b. 1980) and two large-scale paintings by Ad Minolitias (b. 1980) as well as other works, and Thaddaeus Ropac reportedly sold off works by Malaysian artist Mandy El-Sayegh (b. 1985).

Austin Lee, "Bout," 2022, Painting - Acrylic on wooden panel 183 x 230 cm (72 x 90 in). Peres Projects. Art Busan 2022. Photo by Aproject Company.

As the Korean art market is explosively expanding with the fastest-growing young art collectors, Art Busan has been responding to this new trend by also preparing a number of programs that attract the attention of young collectors, such as lectures regarding trends in the art world, including NFT (non-fungible token) art, and digital art and exhibition programs integrating new immersive experiences.

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