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[Herald Interview] G Gallery looks ahead with emerging Korean artists

By Park Yuna

Published : Jan. 3, 2024 - 18:14

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An installation view of G Gallery's booth at the West Bund Art & Design 2023 in Shanghai (courtesy of gallery) An installation view of G Gallery's booth at the West Bund Art & Design 2023 in Shanghai (courtesy of gallery)

Galleries come and go with the changing tides of the art market.

When the market booms, new galleries mushroom, but in lean times, many disappear.

Chung Seung-jin, director of G Gallery in Seoul, has held on to her commitment to art, and her gallery, for the past 10 years.

The gallery was first founded in 2013 in Hannam-dong, central Seoul, and moved to Cheongdam-dong, an affluent neighborhood in southern Seoul, four years later to meet more collectors.

“The last 10 years were never easy. I struggled for many years to figure out the direction of running the gallery. There was a crisis in 2016 where I seriously thought about quitting the gallery due to financial difficulties,” Chung told The Korea Herald.

“After constant attempts and trials, I think we know what we should do and how we can run it,” Chung said.

It was last year when the gallery started to get recognition both at home and abroad, introducing Korean young artist Woo Hannah at No. 9 Cork Street in London in March. Woo's fabric installation inspired by women’s bodies and aging received positive feedback in the art scene, leading the artist to win the inaugural Frieze Seoul Artist Award in September.

“I think It was good for Woo and the gallery to find each other, creating synergy,” the director said.

An installation view of An installation view of "Appearances" at No. 9 Cork Street (courtesy of the gallery and Woo Hannah)

When she was a “newbie” gallerist in Hannam-dong, Chung was excited, thinking she could exhibit works of artists she liked and introduce them to an audience.

She found it more meaningful to present the artists to the public, rather than focusing on selling works, she recalled.

“One day, I was hit by the reality that none of the artists I worked with expressed gratitude for what we did as gallerists, although I did our best to showcase their art. Then I became determined to put more effort into selling their work to collectors,” she said.

After the gallery moved to its current location, Chung began to focus on emerging Korean artists such as Woo Hannah, Hwang Sue-yon and Choi Yoon-hee, realizing there are not many galleries here that support young and emerging artists who are looking for a foothold and wanting to grow.

Chung Seung-jin, director of G Gallery (courtesy of the gallery) Chung Seung-jin, director of G Gallery (courtesy of the gallery)

Chung began to look to international art fairs such as Frieze Seoul, NADA New York, Art 021 and the West Bund Art & Design fair in Shanghai to promote artists abroad and find new collectors.

When she joined the 10th edition of the West Bund Art & Design fair in November, Chung brought works of the three artists, Woo, Hwang and Choi. Hwang’s paper sculpture was sold to a Chinese collector.

Although Hwang has established her artistic career in her homeland with her signature sculptures created with paper and graphite, it was the artist’s first international art fair outside South Korea, according to the gallery.

As part of efforts to promote Korean emerging artists, the gallery started its “Great Exhibition” program, selecting a young Korean artist aged between 25 and 35 every year. Last year, installation artist Lee Hyun-woo was selected for the program. His exhibition, “Parenthesis,” was held in June.

An installation view of An installation view of "Thick Skin" at G Gallery (courtesy of the gallery)

The gallery recently ran an exhibition by Hwang and Choi titled “Thick Skin,” displaying their new paper sculptures and oil paintings. The exhibition ended in December.

“For the new year, we are preparing for a variety of exhibitions including ‘Great Exhibition’ in April and a solo exhibition of Hwang Sue-yon during Frieze Seoul,” she said.

The director said the gallery was looking at some international art fairs including Taipei Dangdai 2023 to continue its efforts to find more collectors for Korean artists that it represents.

“We do not know how the art market will unfold over the next 10 years. It is obvious that the art market is not as good as in 2019 and 2020, but I am confident that the Korean art market has settled its position in Asia over the past decade. I believe we can overcome the challenges and continue to do what we have done,” she said.