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The Top 5 Artistic Places in Korea
Artstyle 14 Mar 2022

The Top 5 Artistic Places in Korea

Exhibition at Perrotin in Seoul
Photograph from an exhibition of Kelly Beeman at the Perrotin Gallery in Seoul, 2022 © Galerie Perrotin

The Korean art market is at the center of discussions now more than ever. Young collectors are impacted by the rise of digital technology, which greatly affects their artistic preferences and general investments. Yeo-seon Youn, a member of the Korea Gallery Association, predicts an “art market boom”. In 2019, the South Korean government even announced the opening of 186 additional museums by 2023… Today, let Artsper guide you through the fascinating South Korean artistic and cultural landscape!

1. The most political: Unimaru Museum

Photograph of the military forces fronting the museum
Photograph of the front of the Unimaru Museum, 2021 © Frommer’s

In September 2021, a one-of-a-kind museum opened its doors in the Korean Demilitarized Zone (KDZ), which is the buffer area located between South and North Korea. It was established on July 27, 1953, following the Korean Armistice Agreement, which put an end to the Korean War. Between 2003 and 2007 the Unimaru Museum was used as a customs office where visitors were searched when they came to visit the KDZ. It was only in 2021 with the inaugural exhibition entitled “2021 DMZ Art and Peace Platform,” that this exceptional project came to life. Nevertheless, access to the zone and the museum is obviously very restricted. Therefore, it is necessary for civilians wishing to visit the museum to submit an application to the Ministry of Unification.

2. The most timeless: Gwacheon’s Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art

Photograph of an iconic museum dedicated to Korean art
Overview of the National Museum of Contemporary Art in Gwacheon © Hisour

If you could only visit one museum in Korea, it should be this one. Indeed, the National Museum of Contemporary Art’s size and prestige won’t fail to impress you. Founded in 1969, it’s located in the city of Gwacheon, near Seoul. The museum spans over 15,000 square meters and houses a vast collection reminiscent of Korean art’s legacy, between tradition and modernity. In the 1970s, the institution gradually acquired figurative and then abstract works, eventually displaying works from big names such as Georg Baselitz, Niki de Saint Phalle, Pierre Soulages and Andy Warhol. And if you’re still on the hunt for art, the National Museum of Contemporary Art has equally amazing branches in Seoul, Deoksugung and Cheongju. 

3. The most colorfoul: Daelim Museum

A colorfoul display of Korean art
Daelim Museum facade, 2016 © SHOWstudio

Located in the heart of a district where museums and galleries are definitely not what’s lacking, the Daelim Museum knows how to make the most of its situation. What sets it apart? The stained glass windows inspired by traditional Korean pottery, which do not fail to remind the visitors of the work of the great Piet Mondrian. French architect Vincent Cornu initiated the building’s renovation and thus, this artistic project. The building itself dates from 1967. At the time, it was a simple family home.

4. The most modern: Yeh Gallery

Gallery Yeh's building
The impressive structure of the Yeh Gallery, 2006 © Arquitectura Viva

Gallery Yeh will appeal to all fans of architecture and large-scale projects… Located in Seoul, it was established in 1982 in Gangnam, more precisely in Garosu-Gil. It became the first art gallery in this emblematic district, which is considered to be the heart of the artistic and cultural life of the international metropolis. UnSanDong Architects is responsible for this experimental structure, which, according to its designers, required looking at the city as a huge folded, continuous and sequential surface. The gallery is driven by a deep desire to promote Korean contemporary art internationally.

5. The most unusual: Samtan Art Mine

Korean art at the Samtan Art Mine
Photograph of a room in the Samtan Art Mine © Gangwon

As you may know, Korea has a long history of coal mining. Opened in 1962, the Samcheok mine used to employ several thousand people. Nowadays, this atypical place, now called the Samtan Art Mine, has been transformed into a complex dedicated to contemporary art. It commemorates the industrial history of the country. Its visitors discover emerging talents of the Korean art scene in rooms still stained with coal. 

If you are keen on art news, do not hesitate to check out our other articles! On Artsper magazine, you can learn more about Korean Dansaekhwa or discover our selection of the 10 Korean artists you need to know

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