Despite a forceful press release with a long list of gallerists praising Kiaf Seoul’s successes, some art dealers say the fair has been largely overshadowed by its international counterpart Frieze.
Several dealers told Artnet News that after Kiaf’s five-day run, they were disappointed with the outcome of the event, which fell short of their pre-show expectations regarding the art market boom widely. reported in South Korea and the traffic generated by the launch of Frieze Seoul.
Most local Korean galleries performed well in terms of sales, but some overseas galleries said sales were slow. Some even said that by the end of Monday, the penultimate day of the fair, they still hadn’t sold anything at all.
“No more satellite fairs for us,” art dealer Eduardo Secci, who has galleries in Milan and Florence, told Artnet. “We are impressed by the art scene and the collectors. The base of the gallery here is stable and the taste is refined. But Frieze has completely taken over the interests of collectors.
“We haven’t sold anything yet,” added Secci, who said he hoped the Frieze raffle would bring more collectors to Kiaf.
One reason could be a price mismatch: while most works at Kiaf ranged from a few thousand dollars to less than $30,000, Secci, which represents artists such as Matthew Ritchie, Enrique Martinez Celaya and Jon Kessler , offered to work for much more money.
Wonder Buhle Mbambo, whose work was brought by Secci to Seoul, “has nearly 100 people on the waiting list and the price has already doubled in the secondary market. But because we’re not upstairs, people are always skeptical,” the retailer said, alluding to the fact that Frieze took place right upstairs from Kiaf in the COEX lobby.
Some dealers told Artnet News that even though they were making new introductions, sales were unstable.
“We don’t know if it’s good to have two fairs open on the same day,” said Juan Blasco of London-based Rosenfeld Gallery. “We know there are museums and there are a lot of collectors. The fair is good. But there is a language barrier.
Blasco, who presented a solo booth of works by Ndidi Emefieles ranging from $25,000 to $70,000, called the opening day “difficult”.
“That’s what happens when a mega brand comes along, and [Frieze has] does an incredible job of combining quality and exclusivity,” said Secci.
“This year’s edition of Kiaf has been resounding in its impact on the local art scene and its implications for Korean artists, galleries and collectors in the international art market,” said a Kiaf spokesperson, in response to request from Artnet News.
“Looking forward, we continue to gather feedback from our exhibitors and stakeholders to ensure that we maximize our partnership with Frieze Seoul to its greatest potential and deliver an even more successful edition next year.”
Kiaf, which is organized by the Galleries Association in Korea and has been around since 2002, has banked on its association with Frieze, and many international galleries have bought into it. The fair doubled its number of international exhibitors to 60 this year from 2021, and included dealers from 17 countries and regions. Among the 164 galleries, 37 exhibited for the first time.
Still, the total number of visitors to Kiaf Seoul and Kiaf Plus, its associated satellite lounge, was 70,000, according to show organizers – the same number recorded at Frieze Seoul, but down more than 20% from the previous year. last year’s recorded attendance of 88,000. Kiaf, however, said last year’s figure included regular visitors and this year’s figure did not.
While some dealerships have had more success. The Droste gallery, based in Düsseldorf and Paris, for example, declared that it had sold its stand, including a painting by Ákos Ezer which sold for €27,500. [$27,252]while Gallery Hyundai said it reported a total sales value of ₩4.2 billion [$3 million]), collectors and observers wonder if the organizers of Kiaf have found the right strategy.
Frieze, it seems, may have benefited far more from their partnership than Kiaf.
As one Korean collector who declined to be named put it: “Kiaf will have to make some changes next year.”
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