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20-year-old KIAF Seoul records largest-ever sales

Visitors view works at KIAF Seoul 2021 (Galleries Association of Korea)
Visitors view works at KIAF Seoul 2021 (Galleries Association of Korea)
The annual KIAF Seoul closed Sunday, attracting a record number of visitors and sales during the five-day fair at Coex in southern Seoul. Marking its 20th anniversary, the fair has become the hottest festival in the country among art fans, attracting interest in art among the general public.

Around 5,000 people visited on the first day of the “VVIP” opening, raising 35 billion won ($29.5 million) in sales, surpassing the total sales of 31 billion won in 2019 when the fair was held physically. The annual fair was held online last year due to the pandemic.

The five-day fair raised 65 billion won in sales with 88,000 visitors, including business magnates, K-pop stars, actors and art dealers. The online viewing room, which was launched last year during the pandemic, was viewed by 83,000 visitors from Oct. 8 to Sunday with some ordering art ahead of the opening day. 

People wait in line to enter KIAF Seoul 2021 on Saturday at Coex in southern Seoul. (Park Yuna/The Korea Herald)
People wait in line to enter KIAF Seoul 2021 on Saturday at Coex in southern Seoul. (Park Yuna/The Korea Herald)
"We definitely saw great interest this year. We brought our artists’ new works to meet the people’s expectation. Lehmann Maupin Seoul is representing international artists in Asia such as Chantal Joffe and Tom Friedman. Their works, including ‘Looking Up’ by Tom Friedman, were popular during the fair,” an official from Lehmann Maupin told The Korea Herald.

The soaring popularity of Korea’s largest international art fair partially reflects expectations about its joint fair with Frieze next year. The Galleries Association of Korea that oversees KIAF Seoul and Frieze will open their fairs at the same time on Sept. 2, 2022 at Coex for the next five years. Seoul will be the first Asian city to host Frieze, which began in London in 2003. 

Visitors view works at KIAF Seoul 2021 (Galleries Association of Korea)
Visitors view works at KIAF Seoul 2021 (Galleries Association of Korea)
South Korea has emerged as an important art market player with international galleries opening venues in Seoul, including Thaddaeus Ropac and Konig, which opened this year. Young art collectors in South Korea are becoming a catalyst of the fast-changing art market, according to art insiders.

“The fair was crowded with people not only on the VVIP day but during general openings. We felt people’s passion for art at the scene,” said an official from Gallery Hyundai, one of the leading art galleries in the country.

Some 170 galleries from Korea and abroad participated in the KIAF Seoul 2021.

KIAF Seoul’s special exhibition “We Connect Art and Future, KIAF and Incheon Airport” will be on display at Incheon Airport through Friday.

By Park Yuna (yunapark@heraldcorp.com)
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