South Korea

Seoul Art Guide

Korea's capital city for more than 600 years, Seoul is today the nation's cultural centre, housing many museums, galleries, and exhibition venues. The National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art (MMCA Seoul) lies at its heart, located next to the historical site of Gyeongbokgung Palace, which served as the main royal palace in the Joseon period (1392–1910). With its main branch based in Gwacheon, Gyeonggi-do, the MMCA Seoul opened in 2013 with the mission to deliver modern and contemporary art to the public. Some of the iconic artists to have been exhibited at MMCA Seoul include Marcel Duchamp, Yun Hyong-keun, Choi Jeong Hwa, Shirin Neshat, and William Kentridge. The MMCA is also the site of prestigious awards such as the MMCA Hyundai Motor Series, dedicated to pioneering Korean artists, and the Korea Artist Prize.

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From Gyeongbokgung, take Seoul's Metro or—on a nice day—a ten- to twenty-minute walk to galleries in the nearby Samcheong District, also known as 'gallery street'. Kumho Museum of Art, founded in 1989 to promote Korean art, houses the works of artists who have shaped modern Korean art—including Nam June Paik, Lee Ufan, and Kim Whanki—as well as emerging Korean artists. Since the mid-2000s, Kumho has also focused its programme on design and architecture.

Gallery Hyundai, which stands right next to Kumho, was founded in 1970 by the pioneering gallerist Park Myung-ja. One of the first galleries to introduce abstract art to Korea, Gallery Hyundai represents leading Korean artists Kang Ik-Joong, Kwon Young-Woo, and Moon Kyungwon, amongst others, as well as international artists such as Iván Navarro and Robert Indiana.

Some of the leading contemporary galleries in the world can be found in Samcheong district as well. Kukje Gallery, founded in 1982, is known for its roster of Korean and international artists including Anish Kapoor, Bill Viola, Candida Höfer, Gimhongsok, Haegue Yang, and Kimsooja. Arario Gallery, which opened in 1989, has been innovative in introducing Indian and Southeast Asian artists to Korea. A regular presence in Frieze New York and Art Basel in Hong Kong since the early 2000s, PKM Gallery has exhibited Lee Bul, Olafur Eliasson, Bruce Nauman, and Katie Paterson, among others.

Other galleries are scattered throughout Seoul. One of the first major art galleries to open in Korea, Gana Art is a chief Korean and Asian contemporary art gallery noted for its public art projects. ONE AND J. Gallery, in Jongno District, was founded in 2005 and is dedicated to contemporary artists, among them Suyoung Kim, Min Ha Park, and New Zealand-based Seung Yul Oh. CHOI&LAGER Gallery was founded by Sunhee Choi and Jari Lager, and established a Seoul outpost in 2016.

Those wanting to experience contemporary Korean culture alongside art may venture to Seoul Museum of Art (SeMA), located in the former building of the Supreme Court of Korea and offering public exhibitions that address social issues. Designed by the acclaimed architect Zaha Hadid, Dongdaemun Design Plaza's diverse exhibition programme encompasses design, fashion, and art, both Korean and international.

Some of Seoul's privately-run art museums are also worthwhile for their vast collections. Leeum Samsung Museum of Art, which opened in 2004, houses 36 pieces that are recognised as national treasures. Its buildings are designed by the architects Jean Nouvel, Rem Koolhaas, and Mario Botta.


Current Exhibition | Seoul
21 May–28 June 2020
Haneyl Choi

Haneyl Choi solo exhibition

P21 View Exhibition
Current Exhibition | Seoul
13 May–2 June 2020
Yongseok Oh

Allosteric Ginger

Gallery Chosun View Exhibition
Current Exhibition | Seoul
12 May–5 July 2020
Chung Seoyoung

Knocking Air

Barakat Contemporary View Exhibition
Exhibition view: Chung Seoyoung, Knocking Air, Barakat Contemporary, Seoul (12 May–5 July, 2020). Courtesy Barakat Contemporary.
Current Exhibition | Seoul
7 May–10 July 2020
Claire Tabouret

Siblings

Perrotin View Exhibition
Exhibition view: Claire Tabouret, SIBLINGS, Perrotin, Seoul (7 May–10 July 2020). Courtesy the artist and Perrotin.
Current Exhibition | Seoul
1–31 May 2020
Honggoo Kang

Study of Green-Seoul-Vacant Lot

One And J. Gallery View Exhibition
Exhibition view: Honggoo Kang, Study of Green-Seoul-Vacant Lot, ONE AND J. Gallery, Seoul (May 1–31, 2020). Courtesy ONE AND J. Gallery.
Current Exhibition | Seoul
24 April–30 May 2020
Group Exhibition

Underneath the Postures

Whistle View Exhibition
Exhibition view: Group Exhibition, Underneath the Postures, Whistle, Seoul (24 April–30 May, 2020). Courtesy Whistle.
Current Exhibition | Seoul
23 April–27 June 2020
Billy Childish

wolves, sunsets and the self

Lehmann Maupin View Exhibition
Exhibition view: Billy Childish, wolves, sunsets and the self, Lehmann Maupin, Seoul (23 April–27 June 2020). Courtesy the artist and Lehmann Maupin, New York, Hong Kong, and Seoul. Photo: OnArt Studio.
Current Exhibition | Seoul
23 April–20 June 2020
Yun Hyong-keun

Yun Hyong-keun 1989–1999

PKM Gallery View Exhibition
Exhibition view: Yun Hyong-keun, Yun Hyong-keun 1989-1999, PKM & PKM+, Seoul (23 April–20 June 2020). Courtesy PKM Gallery.
Current Exhibition | Seoul
26 March–6 June 2020
Park Youngsook

Tears of a Shadow-Park Youngsook solo exhibition

Arario Gallery View Exhibition
Park Youngsook, Tears of a Shadow 1, 2019, C-Print, 180 x 240 cm

Current Exhibitions In Seoul

View All Past Exhibitions (312)
Contemporary art exhibition, Haneyl Choi, Haneyl Choi solo exhibition at P21, Seoul
21 May–28 June 2020 Haneyl Choi Haneyl Choi solo exhibition P21, Seoul
Contemporary art exhibition, Yongseok Oh, Allosteric Ginger at Gallery Chosun, Seoul
13 May–2 June 2020 Yongseok Oh Allosteric Ginger Gallery Chosun, Seoul
Contemporary art exhibition, Chung Seoyoung, Knocking Air at Barakat Contemporary, Seoul
12 May–5 July 2020 Chung Seoyoung Knocking Air Barakat Contemporary, Seoul
Contemporary art exhibition, Claire Tabouret, Siblings at Perrotin, Seoul
7 May–10 July 2020 Claire Tabouret Siblings Perrotin, Seoul
Contemporary art exhibition, Honggoo Kang, Study of Green-Seoul-Vacant Lot at One And J. Gallery, Seoul
1–31 May 2020 Honggoo Kang Study of Green-Seoul-Vacant Lot One And J. Gallery, Seoul
Contemporary art exhibition, Group Exhibition, Underneath the Postures at Whistle, Seoul
24 April–30 May 2020 Group Exhibition Underneath the Postures Whistle, Seoul
Contemporary art exhibition, Billy Childish, wolves, sunsets and the self at Lehmann Maupin, Seoul
23 April–27 June 2020 Billy Childish wolves, sunsets and the self Lehmann Maupin, Seoul
Contemporary art exhibition, Yun Hyong-keun, Yun Hyong-keun 1989–1999 at PKM Gallery, Seoul
23 April–20 June 2020 Yun Hyong-keun Yun Hyong-keun 1989–1999 PKM Gallery, Seoul
Contemporary art exhibition, Park Youngsook, Tears of a Shadow-Park Youngsook solo exhibition at Arario Gallery, Seoul
26 March–6 June 2020 Park Youngsook Tears of a Shadow-Park Youngsook solo exhibition Arario Gallery, Seoul

Ocula Member Galleries In Seoul

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Contemporary Institutions In Seoul

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Seoul In Ocula Magazine

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Hyungkoo Lee: Seriously Fake Science Ocula Conversation Hyungkoo Lee: Seriously Fake Science By Sherry Paik, Seoul

Korean artist Hyungkoo Lee 's exhibitions evoke a scientist's lab or an archaeologist's workshop, often equipped with outlandish gadgets, skeletal or anatomical models in vitrines, or a desk with incomplete skulls, brushes, and notes. Yet his wearable devices, drawings, and sculptures hardly depict real-life subjects—they are chimeras borne...

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Sunjung Kim’s Real DMZ Project Interrogates the North and South Korea Divide Ocula Conversation Sunjung Kim’s Real DMZ Project Interrogates the North and South Korea Divide By Sherry Paik, Seoul

Ongoing since 2012, the Real DMZ Project interrogates the demilitarised zone (DMZ) between North and South Korea through annual, research-based exhibitions that bring together the works of Korean and international artists. Sunjung Kim, the independent curator behind the project, conceived the idea of exploring the DMZ while curating Japanese...

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Nicholas Hlobo at Lehmann Maupin, Seoul Ocula Insight Nicholas Hlobo at Lehmann Maupin, Seoul By Ocula IGTV

South African artist Nicholas Hlobo 's signature materials of rubber, ribbon, leather, and wood were all present in his first solo exhibition in Korea, held between 21 March and 18 May 2019 in Seoul. It comprised new and recent paintings along with a sculpture of copper piping titled Dyumpu (2019), each piece reflecting the artist's...

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Iván Navarro Ocula Conversation Iván Navarro By Stephanie Bailey, Seoul

There are layers, and there are pieces where you don't necessarily see these layers, but they are present because they are things that I have always been interested in.

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Recent Events In Seoul

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Contemporary art exhibition, KIAF/14  at Ocula Private Sales & Advisory, London
25–29 September 2014 KIAF/14
Contemporary art exhibition, G-Seoul 2014 at Ocula Private Sales & Advisory, London
8–11 May G-Seoul 2014
Contemporary art exhibition, KIAF/13 at Ocula Private Sales & Advisory, London
3–7 October 2013 KIAF/13

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