Mall Galleries Takes a Ride on The Korean Wave | Review
Updated: Jul 21
Launch of Korean Art London’s 2023 Artist Fair at Mall Galleries
by Isabelle Hampton-Zabotti
Korean Art London 2023 is launching its new Artist Fair at Mall Galleries, London. From the 6th to the 22nd, the exhibition will showcase over 30 emerging and established South Korean contemporary artists and will explore a vast range of topics and inspirations. Gaudie Arts had the privilege of attending its VIP opening night—here is a small insight into the gallery’s newest addition.
Experienced curator and gallery owner, Rok Hee Hwang, collaborated with independent curators Vittoria Beltrame and Seulki Yoo to create the exhibition which spans multiple chambers. This comes at a time where, spearheaded by the furious growth in popularity of K-Pop, a new market has opened for other forms of Korean art across different mediums.
Clare O'Brien of Mall Galleries announced that they are “delighted to see such wonderful work” and, commenting on the art, noted that “There’s a great element of fun, along with spiritual touches”.
This is an apt description of the striking combination of colourful, pop-esque pieces that nonetheless tie in significant cultural nods.
Many of the pieces are imbued with personal meaning. The evening itself was complemented by a selection of alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages, and South Korean DJs Yangrae and Young nurtured the vibe with ambient K-Indie and K-Pop tunes.
It also featured two live performances; the first being Kyoung Mug Park’s stunning freehand painting of a tiger in the style of traditional Korean art. The second was a graffiti display by Anikoon, whose graphic art stems from his childhood love of robots and sci-fi and brings undeniable life to the mechanical. Combined, they provide an instant snapshot of the curation’s balance between old and new, natural and synthetic.
Many of the artists attended the opening night, providing a valuable opportunity to learn more about their works on display. Speaking to So Ra Shin, she revealed that the process of making her mixed-media, lenticular work is just as vital as the final product. When asked about her inspiration, she told me that “The work is from the observation of connectivity and separability from stapler pins”. An innocuous household item is beautifully transformed, and her work’s message, she believes, extends beyond the material to the relations we build every day.
Another artist that I caught up with was J RYU. While she has painted all her life, she’s a relative newcomer to professional art; but, amongst veterans, she stands her own and presents maturity and freshness to the scene. Her return to Seoul from Mexico was a huge contrast from the rich tones of the landscape and culture to, in her eyes, the comparatively colourless topography of South Korea’s capital. She set her mind to bring colour back into her lif
e through paintings, and her technicolour depictions of everyday life are as playful as they are familiar.
I asked her how she feels about being in London, and she told me that it’s her third time here. “I really love being in London…I can feel the energy of young people. I feel that London is the richest capital in the world, in part because of the architecture”. Her work is featured in the North Gallery which had a particular focus on contemporary art that explores the inner and outer world through colour.
The gallery’s next three weeks are expected to be busy—art enthusiasts and potential buyers will be filing in to view some of South Korea’s finest contemporary works that have found a temporary home across the sea. Hwang’s passion for Korean art is unparalleled, and she states that “The artists I’m interested in bring their experiences of South Korean culture and tradition into a postmodern world”. We see this exemplified at Mall Galleries, where the pairings of different periods, cultures, and focuses are far from being at odds with each other, and instead harmonise in compelling ways. I will certainly be keeping an eye out for future exhibitions that are sure to come.
The Artist Fair will run from the 6-22 July, 2023, at Mall Galleries, The Mall St. James's London, SW1. Tickets are £10, and £8 for concessions. Under 16's go free.