London salerooms get Korean bug

Phillips LogoTwo of London’s main art dealers and auction houses are majoring in Korean art at the moment. Phillips de Pury, tucked in behind the old Army & Navy store in Victoria, has an exhibition and sale of major contemporary artists which it hopes will become an annual event, while Christie’s is preparing for an auction of contemporary Korean photographers, as well as a couple of other Korea-related items.

It’s encouraging to see Korean art maintaining a toehold in the market, in the face of so much interest in contemporary Chinese work. But the Phillips sale has a lot of sponsors behind it – including Standard Chartered and the Korean Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism.

Both salerooms have a quality portfolio of work to sell, with some very big names as well as some more affordable ones. Phillips de Pury’s collection has Lee Ufan as the headline name, while Christie’s has Bae Bien-u.

It’s exciting to see so many Korean artists being sold in London, with such eye-watering prices. But it’s also a bit of a shame that both houses have been infected by what seems to be a bit of a Korean disease: poor advance information.

Christies logoThe lesser offender is Christie’s, who, if you delve enough into their website, give you a little essay about the works being auctioned, and automatically email you with items of interest. But email the Christie’s contact in charge of the sale to arrange a preview, and you won’t get a reply. Similarly, the Phillips de Pury press contact and sales contact cannot be persuaded to respond to their emails. This is problematic for Phillips, when the number of organisations involved in the sale is rather confusing.

Behind the Phillips sale is Parallel Media Group, a sports event company headed by David Ciclitira, whose interests also extend to the arts world – he is an honorary fellow of the Royal College of Art. Parallel Media provide the resources for Korean Eye, which has a very informative website about the show. Korean Eye, courtesy of Parallel Media, has an efficient press organisation who managed to get the exhibition covered by the Telegraph. But now things begin to go a bit haywire. Right up until the start of the exhibition on 20 June, the Korean Eye site told you that the exhibition is at the Saatchi Gallery in the Kings Road. But if you had visited the rather unfriendly Saatchi website as the exhibition started, you would have found no information about it in the Phillips de Pury section. And when you got to the Saatchi gallery itself you find that they have less than half of the exhibition. The gallery attendant tells you to schlep down to Victoria to the Phillips de Pury building, where, sure enough, you find most of the rest of the works for sale. But for some reason or other the Lee Ufan work, and a few others, are nowhere to be found. Which when there is so much space available in both venues is rather a puzzle. In true last-minute Korean fashion, both the Korean Eye and the Saatchi gallery websites have since been updated with accurate information.

Lee Ufan or no, the Phillips de Pury exhibition and sale has some familiar names who have featured in the London exhibition calendar over the past couple of years: Debbie Han (I-MYU, KCC); Park Seung-mo (Albemarle), Lee Hyung-koo (Union, Venice Biennale); Lee Yong-baek (Cell, KCC, Asia House); Jeon Joon-ho (Cell); Lee Dong-wook (Union); Lee Lee-nam (Rokeby); Kim Ayoung (4482 at the Bargehouse); and of course Lee Ufan (Lisson, Venice Biennale fringe). The Christie’s auction has some similarly familiar names. More soon.

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