Thaddaeus Ropac (Courtesy of Thaddaeus Ropac Gallery)
The following is part of a series that explores international galleries that have opened in Seoul, a new art hub in Asia. --Ed.
Thaddaeus Ropac Seoul opened in October 2021 at the heart of Hannam-dong as Korea and the world were hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The move may have seemed foolhardy, but Thaddaeus Ropac, the Austrian gallerist who has run the gallery for almost 40 years, did not hesitate to expand its presence in Asian market.
“Though the pandemic was unprecedented in my lifetime, it is not the first time that we have faced challenges in the business due to the circumstances of the times we are living in,” Ropac said in an email interview with The Korea Herald.
“For instance, when we had just opened a new gallery in London there was a vote for Brexit. Despite this, I never doubted the decision to have a gallery in London and the strength of its extraordinary art scene, and we made it work,” he said.
Thaddaeus Ropac London Ely House (Courtesy of Thaddaeus Ropac Gallery)
Thaddaeus Ropac Gallery, which also operates in Salzburg, Paris and London, chose to open its first Asian venue in Seoul over other Asian cities, such as Hong Kong, Singapore and Tokyo for a number of reasons.
“We have a personal history with Seoul, having represented Lee Bul -- one of the leading Korean artists of her generation -- for many years. I got to know the city even better when in 2007 Georg Baselitz had his first exhibition in Korea at the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art Korea, Gwacheon,” he said.
“The historic art academies and incredible institutions makes this an exceptionally exciting place and even in the past couple of years I’ve witnessed so much change and growth. I am very happy to have found a space that now feels like home. The choice to open a gallery here felt natural,” he added.
Thaddaeus Ropac Seoul occupies the first floor of an architectural landmark, the Fort Hill building which won the Korean National Architecture Award 2011 and the Seoul Architecture Award 2011. It was designed by SAI architects, led by architect Park Ju-hwan.
Installation view of the exhibition “Convergence” by Jason Martin at Thaddaeus Ropac Seoul (Courtesy of Thaddaeus Ropac Gallery)
“Convergence,” an exhibition of a new series of works on aluminum by London and Portugal-based artist Jason Martin is currently running at the gallery through April 16. The works are based on repeating inward movements with a brush that converge at a central point. The drawing also parallels the Korean tradition of bojagi wrapping, according to the artist.
Ropac said the gallery recently began representing some younger artists which is representative of how the identity of the gallery is evolving and how it is open to working with new artists, including Korean artists, whether they are emerging artists or they have not received international recognition despite their extraordinary artistic achievements.
“With our new gallery in Seoul, I am looking forward to being in Korea more often and to meeting Korean artists and visiting artists’ studios,” he said.
“Something I feel we take very seriously is that we always put our artists first,” he said, elaborating that the relationships that the gallery has developed with its artists and the collectors and the trust that has been built are the gallery’s greatest strength.
Ropac believes that the upcoming Frieze Seoul due to kick off Sept. 2 at Coex in southern Seoul will highlight the city’s evolving art market. In September, Thaddaeus Ropac Seoul will showcase works by German artist Anselm Kiefer.
The gallerist considers the tradition of collecting art in Korea to have been firmly established over many generations. The collectors – who span across the country not only in Seoul but Busan and Daegu -- are exceptionally knowledgeable, with a very sophisticated appreciation of art, according to Ropac.
Thaddaeus Ropac Seoul (Courtesy of Thaddaeus Ropac Gallery)
With the ongoing war in Ukraine, the gallery has launched a fundraiser to support humanitarian efforts in the country. It is selling a selection of paintings and sculptures that have been created for or selected as contributions to the fundraiser. The works are on show across the gallery’s five venues -- London, Paris Marais, Paris Pantin, Salzburg and Seoul -- and can also be seen in an online exhibition.
“It is thanks to many of our artists generously donating works that this has been possible, and we have been selling them via our website, with new works added each week and all proceeds from the sales going directly to a selection of charities we have been donating to from the start,” he added.
By Park Yuna (email@example.com