Korean artists, both established and contemporary were omnipresent at Art Basel this year, echoing the success their work has achieved recently at auction and their increased inclusion in major global collections over the last few years.
The show-stopping ‘Untitled’ section of Art Basel positioned woman Korean artist Haegue Yang at its centre. Presented jointly by Kukje Gallery and Tina Kim, the work comprised a large collection of metal roman blinds hung from the ceiling – ‘Sol LeWitt Upside Down – Structure with Three Towers, Expanded 23 Times, Split in Three’, from 2015. Visitors were asked to walk around and through the piece, forcing the question – are we on the inside or the outside? Finding mystery and intrigue in seemingly the most mundane of household objects, Haegue repositions these relics of the everyday to create her pieces, demanding that we reevaluate where they sit on our collective conscience. This is evidenced elsewhere at Basel – in the booth of Berlin gallery Barbara Wein with the piece covered in bells for example.
Kukje continues its focus on Dansaekhwa artists, following its major presentation at the Venice biennale last year, including pieces by Park Seo-bo and Heejin Park at their stand. Ha Chong-hyun’s impressive hessian canvases were a fixture at both Kukje Gallery and Blum & Poe, their thick gelatinous oil paint pressed through the reverse of the canvas, still appearing to ooze thirty years on.
French gallerist Kamel Mennour showed works by Lee Ufan, ahead of his solo presentation of the same artist at two Paris venues (until 23 July). Ufan moved from Korea to Japan in his twenties where he became instrumental in the Mono-ha art movement. Despite not having lived in Korea for a considerable number of years, his art is crucial in the narrative of Dansaekhwa and the continually changing landscape of contemporary Korean art.
Other notable Korean artists on show included Hague Yang at Barbara Wein Gallery, Berlin; Yun Hyong-keun, Lee Bul, Young Do-jeong, Hyunjin Bek and Kwon Jinkyu at PKM Gallery; and Kwon Young-woo, Lee Ufan and Ha Chong-hyun at Blum & Poe. All in all, this impressive collective showcase echoes the shift towards an academic re-construction of the strictly western historical narrative of abstract art. It also proves that the contemporary art scene in Korea is not only thriving, but has considerable market attraction.
Lee Ufan is at Kamel Mennour until 23 July www.kamelmennour.com