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S. Korean art market makes upbeat start in 2022

Visitors view artworks on display at the Galleries Art Fair 2022 during the VIP preview session on Wednesday. (Park Yuna/The Korea Herald)
Visitors view artworks on display at the Galleries Art Fair 2022 during the VIP preview session on Wednesday. (Park Yuna/The Korea Herald)

The boom of the local art market is expected to continue this year thanks to swelling demand for artworks from individual investors amid the protracted pandemic, industry data showed Friday.

The 2022 Galleries Art Fair, one of the biggest art trade fairs in South Korea held from March 16-20, posted 17.7 billion won ($14.5 million) in sales over the five-day period, up sharply from 7.2 billion a year ago.

The number beat the forecast of some 15 trillion won in sales by the Galleries Association of Korea, the organizer of the annual art fair.

K Auction, one of South Korea's two major art auction houses, said earlier the combined sales of in-person auctions held in the first three months of this year shot up 85 percent on-year to 39.9 billion won.

The sharp increase came as the local art market has been experiencing a widening of the customer base across all generations stemming from increased liquidity in the midst of the yearslong pandemic since last year.

The total sales of artworks in Korea reached an estimated 922.3 billion won in 2021, trebling from 2.29 billion won the previous year, according to data by the Korea Arts Management Service.

Insiders said younger generations have become big buyers in the art market, which has usually been dominated by the older and wealthier, for the past few years, while new types of art sales, like non-fungible tokens and online art auctions, are gaining ground.

According to Seoul Auction Blue, those in their 20s and 30s accounted for 40 percent of the customers who have purchased small shares of iconic artworks through its online art investment platform.

The Galleries Association earlier forecast the local art market will continue the robust trend this year to reach nearly 3 trillion won in sales.

The upcoming art fairs, including Korea International Art Fair, the largest art event in the country, in September, are also expected to attract not only longtime patrons but also possible investors. (Yonhap)

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