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[Herald Interview] Pearl Lam Galleries looks to boost its presence in Korea

By Park Yuna

Published : April 17, 2024 - 17:17

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Pearl Lam (Courtesy of Pearl Lam Galleries) Pearl Lam (Courtesy of Pearl Lam Galleries)

Pearl Lam Galleries has established its name primarily in Greater China, working with artists from around the world for the past 20 years. The gallery is now embarking on a move to expand its presence to South Korea, which has grabbed global recognition as another art hub in Asia.

“Seoul is an important center of not only contemporary culture but also strong traditional tastes and aesthetics,” said Pearl Lam, founder of the gallery, in a recent email interview with The Korea Herald.

“Korea is very adept at reaching out to the world and sharing its art, food, music, fashion, cinema, TV series, architecture and history with the rest of the world. Korean culture is very familiar now not only to other Asian neighbors but also to the world,” she said.

Seeking an opportunity to introduce its artists to the South Korean art scene, the gallery is participating in the inaugural ART OnO -- a compact art fair that aims to bring together emerging and experimental artists and galleries. Forty galleries from 20 countries including Pearl Lam Galleries are participating in the fair running from Thursday to Sunday at SETEC in southern Seoul.

"Enigmatic Repose_The Mystique of a Woman Seated" by Alimi Adewale (Courtesy of of Pearl Lam Galleries)

Lam will introduce diverse artists at the fair, most of whom have not been widely introduced to Korean collectors: Nigerian artist Alimi Adewale, British artist Anya Paintsil, American artist Channing Hansen, South African artist Zanele Muholi and Chinese artists Su Xiaobai and Yan Lei.

“We are keen to have our artists’ works included with more frequency in more museum shows in Korea.

“For example, Yan Lei has a massive new media installation on exhibition right now at the newly opened Ulsan Museum of Art. His installation, which includes many TV screens in an AI-type presentation, is shown alongside the famous ‘Turtle’ electronic installation of Nam June Paik,” Lam said.

When she began to have a goal as a gallerist apart from her family business, she needed the courage and guts to pursue her passion at that time, she recalled.

Lam, daughter of the late Lim Por-yen who was a Hong Kong real estate tycoon and founder of Lai Sun Group, dived into the art world in 1993, opening Contrasts Gallery for pop-up shows in Hong Kong. Lam later opened the first physical gallery in Shanghai in 2005 and the second gallery in Hong Kong in 2012.

When she began her gallery career in the Chinese art scene, there was “no Chinese art market.” The art world in Greater China has been enhanced by the presence of a “world-class institution” such as M+ in Hong Kong, Lam said.

“Chinese contemporary art is somehow influenced by America in the 1960s. But before all that, our art starts with calligraphy, landscape paintings and so on. There is a rich tapestry of art and cultural value waiting to be discovered in our extensive history. However, only tourists would buy contemporary Chinese art back in the 90s,” she said.

Lam is planning to work with more Korean artists.

“We are keen to discover new Korean talent perhaps for future projects and/or representation. We are always looking and open to suggestions," Lam said, explaining that the gallery has worked with Korean artists in the past.