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Unusual Places for Art: Nonprofit Art Spaces in Korea

In recent years, utilizing abandoned industrial facilities and idle urban spaces has become a trend in Korea. A number of arts-related institutions have started to use these buildings to foster various artistic practices while keeping the identity of the place and the history of the neighborhood.

As there have been a growing number of places that hold art exhibitions in these reused spaces in Korea, we would like to introduce four private nonprofit spaces that have been playing an important role in supporting young and emerging artists within the most unusual locales.

Boan1942. Photo by Aproject Company.


Founded in 2007, Boan1942 is an arts and culture space opened at an old accommodation building that ran from 1942 to 2004. Located right next to Gyeongbok Palace and near Cheongwadae, the Korean presidential residence, the center runs two buildings: the old inn, which serves as an exhibition space, and a new building that consists of an exhibition space, a bookstore, a marketplace, a cafe and bar, an education area, and other accommodations. 

The building’s original name as well as the institution’s current Korean name is Tongui-dong Boan Yeogwan, meaning Boan inn in Tongui-dong. Many artists, public officials from the arts and cultural offices, and people who worked at the national museum used to stay at the inn. It is also known as a historic place where Seo Jeong-ju (1915–2000), a Korean poet who was active during the 1910–1945 Japanese occupation, published a magazine entitled Siinburak with his fellow poets. 

Boan1942 aims to inherit the cultural traditions of the area and the identity of the building to become an art-generating cultural center where both people and art can reside. Exhibitions held at the center aim to introduce interdisciplinary, site-specific, unconventional artworks of young and emerging artists. 

Post Territory Ujeongguk . Photo by Aproject Company.

Post Territory Ujeongguk

In 2015, the Linear Collective, led by multimedia artist Kim Seon-hyoung, transformed an underused post office building in Changjeon-dong, Seoul, into an exhibition space.  

Post Territory Ujeongguk commemorates the building’s original usage by using the term ‘ujeongguk(郵征局),’ an old term for post office in Korean, and reflects its vision and mission by using the multiple-meaning term ‘post’ to become a space dedicated to various artistic activities across disciplines and to foster communication among artists and the public. 

Post-Territory Ujeongguk seeks to bring together various fields, such as design, experimental arts, traditional arts, media art, feminism, and various other culture and arts, through exhibitions, performances, workshops, screenings, lectures, and talks.

Amado Art Space/Lab. Photo by Aproject Company.

Amado Art Space/Lab

In June 2013, Amado Art Space/Lab renovated a three-story house from the 1980s into an art space. Rather than transforming the building into a white cube, its original structure, including the bathroom, garret, and rooms, has been retained to create an open space for experiments in the field of art. 

Amado holds various projects and programs, including a yearly exhibition program called Annuale, solo and group exhibitions, screenings, performances, lectures, and workshops. It also provides award programs, such as the Amado Curatorial Award for exhibition proposals and the Amado Photography Award to recognize Asian photographers under 40.

The institution was established by a group of art critics and independent curators for the purpose of vitalizing visual art discourses and highlighting the role of art criticism and curation. The institution aims to become an alternative to the current visual-centered, outcome-based institutional art world by acting as a process-based institution that creates an open community for various artistic practices. 

PLACEMAK 2. Photo by Aproject Company.


PLACEMAK converted an unused storage in Yeonnam-dong’s old market arcade Dongjin market into an artist studio and office in 2010, which slowly turned into an exhibition and performance space. It now runs two additional locations in Yeonhui-dong, Seoul. 

In Korean, ‘mak’ means curtains that cover a stage, but it is also an adverb meaning ‘thoughtlessly, rashly, or indiscreetly.’ PLACEMAK, a compound title of ‘place’ and ‘mak,’ seeks to be a place where the veils (mak) which sometimes prevents people from easily accessing the arts can be recklessly (mak) moved away and where people of various backgrounds can connect with art.

Focusing on hosting exhibitions and performances of young and emerging artists, PLACEMAK aims to facilitate emerging creative practices and promote dialogue in the arts. 

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