The Korea Herald


Looking back on 50 years, Gallery Hyundai ready to leap forward

By Park Yuna

Published : April 23, 2020 - 20:50

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"Universe 05-IV-71 #200” by Kim Whanki is on exhibition at Gallery Hyundai in Seoul as part of the gallery‘s 50th anniversary exhibition “Hyundai 50.” The gallery will open on May 12 . (Gallery Hyundai)

Gallery Hyundai, one of the representative commercial art galleries in Korea, is holding a special exhibition to commemorate its 50th anniversary, showcasing major works of art once displayed at the gallery over the past half century.

The special exhibition runs in two phases for three months at the gallery located in Jongno, central Seoul. The first part, unveiled through an online preview on the gallery’s website, will run until May 31 and features some 70 masterpieces by 40 contemporary Korean artists.

Visitors will be able to visit the gallery from May 12 when the gallery reopens after its temporary shutdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The second part, scheduled to run from June 12 to July 19, will focus on relatively new artists whose works were displayed at the gallery in the 1990s and later.

“All the artworks have special relations with Gallery Hyundai, and we wanted to look back on the past 50 years by inviting the masterpieces again to the gallery with approval from the collectors,” said Do Hyung-teh, president of Gallery Hyundai, at the press conference Tuesday at the gallery.

Founded on April 4, 1970, Gallery Hyundai has held around 800 exhibitions of 400 artists from home and abroad, growing into a hub for Korean artists, including Park Su-geun and Lee Jung-seob, widely considered Korea’s greatest contemporary painters.

The major dot painting “Universe 05-IV-71 #200” by Kim Whanki, which was displayed at the gallery in 2012, is on show again at the first session of the special exhibition for the first time since it became the most expensive Korean painting last year. It fetched 88 million Hong Kong dollars ($11.4 million) at a Christie’s auction at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Center. 

An installation view of ”Hyundai 50“ at Gallery Hyundai in Seoul. (Gallery Hyundai) An installation view of ”Hyundai 50“ at Gallery Hyundai in Seoul. (Gallery Hyundai)

Paik Nam-june holds a special place for Gallery Hyundai too. Park Myung-ja, founder of the gallery, supported the artist and hosted Paik’s exhibitions starting in 1988.

The first session of the special exhibition includes archival materials on Paik, including a news article with his autograph.

“Paik used to sign his autograph on news articles reporting on him and send it to Park from time to time. Paik was definitely a special artist to Park and the gallery,” said Kim Sung-eun, director at Gallery Hyundai.

Paik Nam-june’s masterpiece “Marco Polo,” which won the Golden Lion at the 1993 Venice Biennale, is also on exhibition.

Looking forward to the next 50 years, the gallery has strengthened its online platform in an effort to reach global collectors. The gallery will unveil its online viewing room in May and publish an online magazine in English about Korean contemporary artists. The gallery has also renewed its English-language website.

“Foreign art collectors contact us to ask about artists from Korea, and we feel it our responsibility to herald Korean artists to the world as Korea‘s representative commercial art gallery,” Kim Jae-seok, creative director at Gallery Hyundai, told The Korea Herald.

The gallery opened its showroom in New York in April last year, taking the first step toward expanding its presence internationally.

“Once an art piece leaves the hands of the artist, the work does not belong to the artist anymore. It goes to the society,” the gallery’s president Do told The Korea Herald. “As a gallery, our most important role is to help those artworks get the good valuation and respect that they deserve.”

Do has his eyes on Korea’s media art and experimental paintings for the coming years, moving beyond the abstract such as dansaekhwa, or monochromatic paintings, that have gained international popularity over the past several years.

“We are planning to display more of Korea’s media art and experimental paintings that are relatively undervalued. There are so many good Korean artists in those genres,” he added.

By Park Yuna (