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Omicron variant keeps international artists from visiting Seoul

Ai Weiwei, whose first large-scale show in Korea opens this week, won’t be here in person

An announcment on Instagram says an artist talk and autograph event with Spanish photographer Yosigo have been canceled. (Ground Seesaw’s Instagram account)
An announcment on Instagram says an artist talk and autograph event with Spanish photographer Yosigo have been canceled. (Ground Seesaw’s Instagram account)


The emergence of the omicron coronavirus variant dampened the buoyant mood in the art scene as new travel restrictions complicated international travel, forcing artists and other prominent figures in the art world to cancel trips to South Korea.

Chinese artist Ai Weiwei, who was expected to visit Seoul ahead of his first large-scale solo exhibition in Korea -- “Ai Weiwei Defend the Future,” scheduled to open Dec. 11 at the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Korea -- will not make it to Seoul this time.

Ai is one of a number of artists whose plans to visit Seoul were thwarted after the government imposed a 10-day mandatory quarantine for inbound travelers until Dec. 16, regardless of their vaccination status.

Spanish photographer Yosigo, whose exhibition at Ground Seesaw Seochon was an instant success, canceled his trip to Seoul last week after the government announced tighter travel restrictions. A number of his fans expressed frustration on social media upon hearing the news.

Visitors view the exhibition “Photographs by Yosigo: Holiday Memories” at Ground Seesaw Seochon in Seoul. (Park Yuna/The Korea Herald)
Visitors view the exhibition “Photographs by Yosigo: Holiday Memories” at Ground Seesaw Seochon in Seoul. (Park Yuna/The Korea Herald)

“We had planned an autograph event for his fans and an artist talk which were scheduled for Monday and Tuesday this week. We ended up canceling the events last week. It was an unexpected situation,” said an official from Media N Art, which organized the exhibition “Photographs by Yosigo: Holiday Memories.”

Koenig Galerie, a German gallery in Seoul, had planned to open an exhibition by Berlin-based contemporary artist Alicja Kwade on Thursday with the artist in attendance but will now have to proceed without her. The exhibition, held in conjunction with Pace Gallery in Seoul, brings together some 30 artworks by Kwade at the two galleries in Seoul.

“The exhibition is the artist’s first show in Seoul so she really wanted to visit the city,” an official from Koenig Galerie told The Korea Herald. “We came up with a plan instead to play a pre-recorded video of the artist explaining her works along with a talk with Johann Koenig (the founder of the gallery) at her studio in Berlin.”

Titled “Sometimes I Prefer to Sit on a Chair on the Earth Surrounded by Universes,” the exhibition features several new works by Kwade, according to the gallery.

By Park Yuna (yunapark@heraldcorp.com)
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