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KIAF – A fair with a perspective (A report from Cai Wagner)

The 5th Korean Korean International Art Fair (KIAF) that ended Tuesday in Seoul concluded with a lot of good messages. One of these is the enlargement of the fair next year with two new exhibition halls in the ultra-modern exhibition-complex COEX. Almost 160 galleries participated in the 5th edition. Germany – again represented with the highest number of foreign galleries – was followed by 12 Japanese galleries and a number of galleries from France (this year’s focus country). In view of the market situation and of the planning of the organisers, the number of foreign galleries will continue to increase. And it surely will because Seoul becomes more and more interesting for gallery owners and offers an alternative to the fairs in China.

Strassenbild, Seoul

Especially for German exhibitors, the trip to Korea turns out to be a strangely positive experience. Germany and the Germans are highly respected, and it might happen that you meet a German-speaking Korean or a « Bräuhaus » in Seoul; beer gardens are simply called « Hof ». For the first time, the fair, which is supported by the association of Korean gallery owners, could realise a cooperation based on long-term considerations with the association of Berlin galleries (LVBG). With an information-booth of the LVBG at the entrance of the fair, with the three galleries DAM, HERRMANN & WAGNER and with Galerie Michael Schultz, the vanguard of this partnership presented itself, and will be represented, by a common show with more than 10 booths and a “Berlin Lounge”. The good news behind this is that after tenacious negotiations, Berlin’s Senate has finally decided to support this kind of events financially. In the future, the LVBG will logistically support the implementation. The colleagues of the association in Seoul will be able to exchange opinions with an equal partner from Berlin.

Sven Herrmann, Herrmann & Wagner
Sven Herrmann, Herrmann & Wagner

There is no room for boredom during these 7 days of fair. From the first day to the last, it is very well visited. The curiosity of the public is great and visible, although it is sometimes hidden behind Asian timidity. Gallery owners should use the service of a translator, as the language barrier very strongly restricts negotiations and exchanges. Intermediation seems to be the magic word: the offer of the KIAF is rather so-so and possesses the typical features of a starter-fair in a difficult environment, as the Art Moscow
, for example. There is some very expensive and very colourful to get, and Blue Chips can be bought here as well, and of course also local artists. But concerning the domain of young international artists, the preconditions in terms of content are missing. This is also obvious in view of the absence of important art magazines. KIAF
definitely needs to catch up here. But this seems to be possible.

Stand LVBG
Stand LVBG

The next fair will take place at the beginning of May 2007. Visitors of the KIAF should then take enough time for Seoul’s gallery scene and for a trip to the nearby mountains surrounding the ultra-modern and huge city. At the fair and in the city, the following rule of thumb applies: orientation is everything. Mutual comprehension works through the use of maps and sketches. Could it be any better for galleries?

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