WHITESTONE Brings Art and Design to Define: Seoul


Whitestone Gallery's booth, Layer 41, 3rd floor at Define: Seoul

“Define: Seoul”, a trailblazing art and design fair, unfolded its creative tapestry from November 1 to November 5, set in the dynamic ambiance of Seoul's trendsetting Seongsu-dong district. Providing a firsthand account of this groundbreaking event, Whitestone Gallery's gallerists, Christina Jung and Kate McDowell, share their insights on the unique fusion of art and design at the fair.

A New Spin on the Traditional Art Fair

A sign near Define: Seoul's entrance

The new Define: Seoul art and design fair is an early adapter to the global trend of bringing together design and fine art, and the fair, organized by Art Busan and curated by celebrated designer Teo Yang took place in an equally trendy neighborhood. Organized in November, Define: Seoul occupied three main buildings throughout the hipster neighborhood of Seongsu-dong in Seoul. The three spaces–Andy's 636, Layer 27, and Layer 41–featured a mix of showings by design studios and art galleries, as well as public exhibitions that showcased both craft and fine art.

Among the fine art galleries that participated in the fair were local players alongside international galleries and design studios, some of which had never exhibited in Korea before. Galleries' spaces were cunningly placed adjacent to those of design studios in interesting ways, and there was an atmosphere of different ideas and aesthetics intermingling. The sometimes lack of boundaries between spaces, literally blurring the line between design and fine art, added to that atmosphere.

Three Unique Spaces in Harmony

Fair-goers observe booths and a public installation at Layer 41.

Among the three main exhibition spaces, Andy's 636 had a clear fine art focus, with the largest number of galleries exhibiting there. In contrast to this space, Layer 27 was focused more on design and craftsmanship, with prominent lighting and furniture displays. Layer 41, where Whitestone Gallery's exhibition space was located, was a true marriage of the two concepts. The building was a three-story studio with a large, open first floor on which art galleries exhibited their works next to a design lab. The second floor overlooked the first floor and housed a sleek VIP lounge. Finally, the third floor featured showings from Whitestone Gallery, a design studio, and an art studio in a large room with a hip, industrial feel, with lofty ceilings and large windows.

Savoring the Vitality and Beauty of Wood at Define: Seoul

Thematic Exhibition by Teo Yang, artist Honggu Park, at Layer 27

Define Seoul 2023 had a total of 6,000 visitors, making nearly the entire Seongsu district an art festival for the five days of the fair. Designer Teo Yang, who served as a general director of the fair, directed the thematic exhibition, "Beautiful Endurance" together with artists Na Jeom Soo and Honggu Park, who deal with the physical properties of wood. The thematic exhibition of the two artists, showcased at Layer 27 and Layer 41, focused on "wood" and prompted deep thoughts. The theme of the two exhibitions brought focus to "A Look within Matter," which was the overall theme of the fair. The whole design process begins by understanding what is beneath the surface of an object. Just like the inside of a human being, the inside of an object also has multi-layered aspects.

Thematic Exhibition by Teo Yang, artist Na Jeom Soo, at Layer 41

Some objects need to be observed for a long time to understand the nature of the material. Pieces of wood are primordial objects that exude unique properties and beauty based on their persistent vitality. They have a deep and unique inner self. The exhibition allowed the viewers to observe the works of Honggu Park and Na Jeom Soo, whose artworks are the outcome of continuous commitment towards understanding wood.

In addition to the thematic exhibition, there were Define Talks, allowing visitors to hear insights from speakers in the art world. Prominent designers, gallerists, curators, and artists from both domestic and international design and art scenes came together to introduce the content of the Korean and global art markets. These talks aimed to facilitate a discussion on the topic of "The Inner World of Objects."

Discovering a Unique Art Fair Experience at Define: Seoul

Whitestone Gallery's booth, Layer 41, 3rd floor at Define: Seoul

Each gallery that participated in Define: Seoul had a unique interpretation of the interaction between fine art and design, and Whitestone Gallery had a particularly interesting take on the concept. Director of Whitestone Gallery Seoul Jiyoung Park focused on interior design when choosing artists and works to exhibit at the show, and the gallery collaborated with Dropdot Furniture to showcase art alongside antique, designer chairs, lamps, and tables. This collaboration made the space feel less like a booth at an art fair and more like a chic interior. For example, artworks like Chae Lee's abstract blue and beige painting, Wondong Shin's moon jar, Go Ogawa's prism sculpture, and Masayuki Tsubota's wall-mounted textural piece exhibited alongside an antique designer side table and lamp evoked the atmosphere of a well-designed living room in a trendy home.

Visitors at Whitestone Gallery's booth, Layer 41, 3rd floor

Fair-goers appreciated Whitestone's stylish curation and visited in fairly large numbers throughout the duration of the fair. Compared to other art fairs, the crowd was made up of younger visitors, including Whitestone Gallery's very own artist Sebastian Chaumeton. These younger visitors were attracted to Tsubota's abstract, minimalist wooden artworks, in particular. They were also charmed by the whimsy and warmth of JaeHyun Lee's oil paintings, and the fine details of Hai Yun Jung's birds in her acrylic painting "Plan B" (2023) left viewers in awe. All in all, Define: Seoul introduced youthful, hip Koreans to Whitestone Gallery and left a positive impression.

Whitestone Gallery artist Sebastian Chaumeton sketches Jaehyun Lee's painting at Define: Seoul.

Whitestone Gallery's booth, Layer 41, 3rd floor at Define: Seoul

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