The Korea Herald


[HERALD INTERVIEW] Making art ‘accessible’ to everyone

By 이우영

Published : Sept. 11, 2015 - 16:50

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The Affordable Art Fair arrived in Seoul for the first time, kicking off its three-day showcase of contemporary art on Friday.

The Seoul fair offers a wide range of artworks such as paintings, sculptures, installations and media works that suit “every tasteful taste bud,” said Will Ramsay, founder of the art fair.

“There is plenty of good-quality art in an affordable price range. We are the venue for finding it,” he said in an interview at Dongdaemun Design Plaza, the fair venue, in Seoul on Thursday. 

Will Ramsay, founder of Affordable Art Fair (Lee Sang-sub/The Korea Herald) Will Ramsay, founder of Affordable Art Fair (Lee Sang-sub/The Korea Herald)

The fair began in 1999 in London with the goal to make art affordable and accessible to everyone. Its aim has appealed to art lovers around the world, with the fair expanding to 13 cities including London, New York, Amsterdam, Milan, Singapore and Hong Kong. Seoul is the third host city in Asia after Singapore and Hong Kong.

Ramsay said he had three words in mind when he launched the fair: democratization, accessibility and affordability.

“When I was in the military, I went around art galleries and wasn’t helped by them. I thought it was a backward retailing sector that needs a more friendly approach. It caters for one percent. I thought I wanted to do something for the 99 percent,” said the Briton, who studied art history in college and then served in the military as part of a family tradition.

The first edition in Seoul gathers 80 international galleries, including 40 Korean local galleries, which present contemporary artworks of young, up-and-coming artists and printed editions of established artists such as Anish Kapoor, Marc Quinn and Damien Hirst. 
A visitor looks at paintings at the Affordable Art Fair in Seoul. (Affordable Art Fair) A visitor looks at paintings at the Affordable Art Fair in Seoul. (Affordable Art Fair)

They fall in the relatively lower price range of 500,000 won to 10 million won ($420-$8,450). High-end art fairs often feature artworks that are priced up to millions of dollars.

“We try to cater not only to those who know about art, but also to those who are intimidated by it,” said Ramsay.

The fair attempts to break the high ceiling between art galleries and the public with friendly guided tours and tips on purchasing artworks and displaying them at home.

It runs “gallery speed dating” guided tours to each gallery booth at 6 p.m. on Saturday and 4 p.m. on Sunday. It invites novice art lovers have a chance to talk with gallerists, and learn about their artists and art collecting.
The “Art Home” booth, a model house setting artwork displays, offers visitors ideas for decorating home with artworks presented at the art fair.

A children’s art studio invites children to paint, draw and make art throughout the fair.

The fair also serves as a platform for young artists to introduce and promote their work to wider audiences. Co-curated with Samsonite, a special exhibition introduces 12 young Korean artists who were selected from a list of 300 applicants.

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By Lee Woo-young (