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The New Yorker: The Koreans at the Top of the Art World

By Natasha Degen and Kibum Kim
The New Yorker

kee_contemporary cover[excerpt]

The powerful art adviser Allan Schwartzman, who has taken a keen interest in Tansaekhwa, said, “I’ve never seen this amount of widening interest in a particular circle of non-contemporary artists, in historical material before.” The number of upcoming exhibitions associated with the group this fall supports Schwartzman’s observation. In New York alone, the blue-chip galleries Blum & Poe, Galerie Perrotin, and Tina Kim will open shows of Yun Hyong-Keun, Chung Chang-Sup, and Ha Chong-Hyun respectively, within a week of each other, starting on October 30th. In London during Frieze week, in mid-October, no fewer than three exhibitors—Axel Vervoordt, Kukje Gallery / Tina Kim, and Hakgojae—will be showing Tansaekhwa works at Frieze Masters. South of the fair, in a tony gallery space next to the Royal Academy of Art, the global mega gallery Pace will host a retrospective of Lee Ufan’s paintings from the Tansaekhwa period.

What started the market phenomenon? It can be traced to two shows of major historical works: one, at Kukje Gallery in Seoul, in August, 2014, and, less than a month later, a show at Blum & Poe in Los Angeles, which was curated by Joan Kee, an art historian who authored “Contemporary Korean Art: Tansaekhwa and the Urgency of Method,” the first book on the movement in English. (The artists credit her for spurring international interest in their work.) Following the two exhibitions, a number of institutions acquired Tansaekhwa works, including the Art Institute of Chicago; the Centre Pompidou, in Paris; the Guggenheim Museum in New York and Abu Dhabi; the Hirshhorn Museum, in Washington, D.C.; the Museum of Modern Art, in New York; and M+, a new museum currently under construction in Hong Kong. Important American collectors, such as Howard Rachofsky, who, with his wife, Cindy, has promised their entire collection to the Dallas Museum of Art, also bought from these shows, under Schwartzman’s guidance.

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