A review of the London Korean Year 2015

by Philip Gowman on 11 January, 2016 updated 1 January, 2019

in 2015 year-end posts

What were my highspots of the London Korean Year 2015? Read the below for some clues:

Food

Chef Joo Won's tasting menu

Chef Joo Won’s Korean tasting menu at Galvin at Windows

2015 was definitely the year that Korean food started consolidating its position in the UK. Here are a few highlights:

Exhibitions and the art scene

One of Lee Ufan's works installed for his Lisson Gallery exhibition

One of Lee Ufan’s works installed for his Lisson Gallery exhibition

Is it my imagination, or was there not quite so much going on this year in London? The scene has been going into a slight decline since the change in the visa rules, but as I look back 2015 seems to be a step change. Here are some of the factors leading to a smaller number of exhibitions this year:

  • Sadly, it was the year when HADA Contemporary closed its doors in Bethnal Green,
  • Mokspace seemed to have run out of energy, remaining empty for most of the year.
  • Hanmi Gallery focused on the London fairs (Art15 and London Art Fair) and on their new Seoul gallery space while they work on revamping their London premises.

In fact for contemporary Korean art probably the commercial exhibition to visit this year was in Cologne, at Choi & Lager. On the positive side, two new galleries arrived on the Mayfair scene in February:

  • Omer Tiroche in Conduit Street, a generalist whose second exhibition was a big show of established and emerging Korean artists. The same gallery had a big splash at Art15 with work by Lee Ufan and Chun Kwang-young among others.
  • Skipwiths, a Korean and Chinese specialist, who brought Chun Kwang-young to Bernard Jacobson Gallery in 2014. Their inaugural exhibition featured Park Hyojin and Chun Kwang-young, artists who were also included at the Skipwiths stall at Art15.

Probably the biggest commercial exhibition in London this year was Lee Ufan at the Lisson Gallery, and the biggest non-commercial show was Park Chan-kyong at INIVA, including a screening of his documentary Sindoan. Outside of London the major exhibitions included Suh Do-ho exhibited in Bristol and Chun Kwang-young in Edinburgh.

Among the most active of the artists we’ve got to know in London were;

The KCC continued its trend of putting on intellectually challenging shows through its Call for Artist and Artist of the Year exhibitions which featured Sora Kim and Yva Jung. Also, in a collaboration with Tate Modern the KCC presented an equally challenging and at times very rewarding series of experimental film screenings, highlighting Korea’s contribution to this often ignored genre. The KCC’s engagement with fashion continued with a striking exhibition of work by Korean designers coinciding with London Fashion Week.

East of the City, CASS put on an interesting exhibition of award-winning young Korean architects.

Hmm. So this section of the post has ended up being the longest. Will any of the exhibitions end up in the shortlist at the bottom?

Performance

The Barberettes at the Forge, Camden, 4 Sept. Photo LKL

The Barberettes at the Forge, Camden, as part of K-Music 2015

Some of the events that stick in the memory:

With all the above, it’s a real challenge to highlight the best. I’m sorry I missed No Brain at K-Music as I’m sure that would have been in high up on my shortlist.

Film

At the Q+A after the screening: Tony Rayns, Zhang Lu, Moon Sori and Rho Seh-hyun

At the Q+A after the LKFF’s final screening: Tony Rayns, Zhang Lu, Moon Sori and Rho Seh-hyun (photo KCCUK)

The KCC organised its 10th London Korean Film Festival, which was full of interesting things while also seeming less hectic than the last couple of years. The festival included masterclasses, interviews and a conference, and glitz was added by appearances from A-list actors Hwang Jung-min and Moon So-ri.

A 0th edition of a new London East Asia Film Festival was launched which featured two Korean movies, and the BFI Film Festival also gave us four Korean screenings.

On a smaller scale, Raindance hosted a documentary on the North Korean who calls himself Sun Mu, and Kings College hosted a screening by Kim So-young combined with a talk about her trilogy of documentaries featuring the Korean experience in the former Soviet Union.

SOAS, in collaboration with the KCC, presented a welcome week of film adaptations of Korean novels, designed to coincide with the London Book Fair. And we got a chance to see Diving Bell, the controversial Sewol documentary which caused trouble with the Busan film fest.

Talks and seminars

Hwang Sok-yong with Maya Jaggi (L) and Dr Grace Koh

Hwang Sok-yong with Maya Jaggi (L) and Dr Grace Koh – launching Princess Bari at Asia House

We were blessed with literary visits: Han Kang became the latest Korean author to achieve prominence, launching The Vegetarian with translator Deborah Smith; Hwang Sok-yong came to London to launch Princess Bari (tr Sora Kim-Russell); and Ko Un returned to the KCC with Brother Anthony to read a wide selection of his poems. Brother Anthony also gave us an appreciation of Korean tea in an evening which he presented with Tea Master Hyoam.

Lee Ufan at the KCC with interpreter Rho Seh-hyun

Lee Ufan at the KCC with interpreter Rho Seh-hyun

Also at the KCC Lee Ufan gave a fascinating talk to coincide with his Lisson Gallery exhibition. Full marks to Rho Seh-hyun for interpreting.

The Winners

And so, what will LKL remember most fondly from 2015? Here’s what:

Korean tasting menu

Chef Joo Won’s menu

Jambinai 1

Jambinai at Rich Mix

Lee Kwang-guk with Tony Rayns and Rho Seh-hyun after the screening of Love And... (photo KCCUK)

Lee Kwang-guk with Tony Rayns and Rho Seh-hyun (photo KCCUK)

Kim Hong-joon at SOAS

Kim Hong-joon at SOAS

Incredibly lush visuals were a feast for the eyes

Incredibly lush visuals were a feast for the eyes – YMAP’s Alice in Wonderland (photo courtesy Kingston Welcomes Korea)

NK friends

North Korean friends in New Malden – photo courtesy Korean Information Centre

Thanks to all the organisers and sponsors for making these events possible.

{ 0 comments… add one now }

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: