Art Busan 2023 Report by WHITESTONE Gallerist


Visitors to Art Busan 2023 view private galleries' booths (Courtesy of Art Busan)

Korea has been increasing its presence in the global art scene in recent years, with the art fair "Frieze" being held in Korea for the first time in 2022. In this climate of increasing interest in the Korean art scene, Art Busan is an international contemporary art fair held annually in Korea and its scale has been expanding in recent years. Whitestone Gallery is pleased to introduce readers to Art Busan, which is the largest showing of galleries and special exhibitions yet.

What is Art Busan 2023?

The exterior of BEXCO which was the venue of Art Busan.

This year's Art Busan, held from May 4th to May 7th at BEXCO convention center in the vicinity of Busan's famous Haeundae beach, proved to be the largest showing of galleries and special exhibitions in Korea thus far. With 146 participating galleries from 22 countries around the world, Art Busan has become Korea's premier art fair.

Art Busan 2023 (Courtesy of Art Busan)

Domestic galleries, including such influential players in the Korean art scene as Kukje Gallery, Gallery KUZO, Leeahn Gallery, Hakgojae Gallery, Gallery Hyundai, Gallery Baton, PKM Gallery, and others, delivered impressive showings of both Korean and international artists. Of course, important galleries from countries around the world, like the United Kingdom, Spain, the Philippines, Japan, and China, joined this year's fair in addition to Korean galleries. Among them were such big names as Thaddaeus Ropac, Gallery Irritum Tokyo, Peres Projects, and Whitestone Gallery.

Art Busan 2023 (Courtesy of Art Busan)

Special events and features also made this year's Art Busan unique and futuristic. Through the AI language model ChatGPT, Art Busan created an AI docent, which gave information about artworks and galleries and answered visitors' questions.

Art Busan visitors could also enjoy the "Art Shuttle," prepared in collaboration with Busan Art Week (May 1 – May 9), which stopped at various cooperating sites and locations around Busan, such as local galleries, museums, cafes, and restaurants. In addition, the fair planned a number of talks with influential curators and artists, and guests could visit two Busan-based artists' open studios.

A curator gives a talk (Courtesy of Art Busan)

Special Exhibits "Connect" and "Art Accent 2023"

An artwork included in one of Art Busan 2023's "Connect" special exhibit booths.

Art Busan 2023 was so much more than a collection of private gallery booths. This year, several special public exhibits were prepared in collaboration with famous artists and galleries. Twelve special exhibits, entitled "Connect," featured installations by British artist Philip Colbert of The Page Gallery and Japanese artist Tatsuo Miyajima of Gallery Baton. Visitors to the fair could enjoy spacious booths dedicated entirely to these installation artworks. One of the "Connect" booths presented AI artworks, which are of growing significance in the global art world.

In addition, a special booth called "Art Accent 2023" aimed to highlight artworks by five up-and-coming, young Korean artists. The theme of this public exhibit was "Nostalgic Mansion," and the participating artists–Hwang Won-hae, Park Han-saem, Seo In-hye, Jang Geon-yul, and Kwon Ha-hyung–each created photography and painting works that represented their own interpretations of city portraits.

Art Busan 2023: Looking to the Future

Visitors admire booths at Art Busan 2023.

Art Busan 2023 proved to be a buzzing event. In spite of the unseasonably cold and sometimes rainy weather, lovers of art visited the art fair in large numbers. However, guests could feel immediate warmth and cheer as they came out of the cold thanks to Philip Colbert's "Lobster Octopus" character–a special installation created for the fair and almost an unofficial mascot of the fair, whom guests could take photos with in a special photo booth. Of course, many visitors came to enjoy private galleries' booths, which boasted pieces by both established, internationally renowned artists, as well as by Korean artists and emerging artists in the earlier stages of their careers.

Art Busan 2023 (Courtesy of Art Busan)

While the main floor of the convention center at BEXCO was devoted to the traditional showing of private gallery booths, the special exhibits, and other features of the fair, looked to the future. For example, the AI docent, in the form of a sleek, white, robot-looking device on wheels, could be seen milling about the booths, ready to guide and inform guests. In addition, the "Connect" booth featuring the shiny, mysterious numbers of artist Tatsuo Miyajima evoked the unknowns that face us in the future, and another special exhibit displayed art created by AI technology. Seven galleries also presented booths dedicated entirely to a single artist that they view as the future of art in a section of the fair aptly titled "Future."

Whitestone Gallery's Booth Engages Viewers of All Ages

A family enjoys Aru Meng's artworks at Whitestone Gallery's booth.

This year's Art Busan opened during the first week of May, a week which includes Korea's "Children's Day" (May 5th). As such, there was a large number of families and children who visited the fair to view the fair's booths, including Whitestone Gallery's booth. Guests enjoyed the works prepared by participating Whitestone Gallery artists Soonik Kwon, Masayuki Tsubota, Miyako Terakura, Aru Meng, Egami Etsu, Yuyelai, Ahhi Choi, Karen Shiozawa, and Kohei Kyomori.

Visiting youngsters particularly enjoyed the bright and cheerful paintings of Aru Meng and the undeniably cute and peaceful-looking ceramic sculptures of Miyako Terakura. The sober, reflective, and somewhat formalist artworks by Soonik Kwon, Deokhan Kim, and Masayuki Tsubota were appealing to art enthusiasts of older generations, while younger generations enjoyed the dynamic visuals and emotional resonance of artworks by Kohei Kyomori, Egami Etsu, Yuyelai, Karen Shiozawa, and Ahhi Choi.

Visitors view pieces by Miyako Terakura and Yuyelai at Whitestone Gallery's booth.

2023 marked the second year in which Whitestone Gallery participated in Art Busan, and there were many art collectors from the Busan area who remarked that they had remembered Whitestone Gallery's previous showing of artworks and who were interested in the gallery. Specifically, the young, famous Japanese artists introduced by Whitestone Gallery gave it a fresh and new image in the eyes of Korean visitors to the booth. Whatsmore, the booth became a meeting place to introduce the grand opening of Whitestone Gallery Seoul, which will take place in September.

Art Busan 2023's main entrance (Courtesy of Art Busan)

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