With an ever-evolving art scene, South Korea is home to a number of world-renowned galleries that feature works spanning multiple genres and mediums. From Seoul to Busan and everywhere in between, the following galleries showcase some of the best art the country has to offer.
Pyeongchang in northern Seoul is home to some of Korea’s oldest and most influential galleries. Among them is Gana Art, a modern complex designed by celebrated architect Jean-Michel Wilmotte. Founded in 1983, Gana Art has presented over 400 exhibitions of Korean and international art over its lengthy history, including prominent artists such as Pierre Alechinsky, Roy Lichtenstein and Joan Miro.
Surrounded by the beautiful and pristine nature of Jeju Island, the Jeju Museum of Art is the epicenter of the region’s art. The building itself reflects the local culture, colors and sounds of the island, while its historical and contemporary works are sure to inspire art enthusiasts. Of particular interest is the Chang Ree-suok Hall, which displays more than 100 artworks created by the well-known Korean artist Chang Ree-suok.
With its striking modernist architectural shell, Gallery Yeh is an iconic landmark in Seoul’s ritzy Gangnam district. Established in 1978 and reopened in 1982, it led to the transformation of the Sinsa-dong neighborhood into a dynamic cultural center. The gallery has also played a significant role in bridging the gap between Korea’s capital and the wider art world, featuring the works of celebrated artists such as Raphael Soto and Alberto Giacometti, as well as representing Korean masters such as Ku Pon-ung, Kwon Ok-yeon and Kim Hwan-gi around the globe.
Founded in 1990, the Johyun Gallery (formerly known as Gallery World) is one of Busan’s premier art galleries. Johyun represents many well-known Korean and international contemporary artists such as Nam June Paik, Julian Opie and Georges Rousse. With its carefully curated exhibitions of sculptures, paintings, and installations, Johyun is guaranteed to satisfy the most discerning of art lovers.
Notable for its focus on contemporary Chinese art, Artside Gallery has been a leader in the artistic exchange between Korea and China, and has garnered international attention for hosting the first solo exhibition of artist Zhang Xiaogang in the country. In 2007, Artside opened a gallery space in Beijing, and in 2010 relocated its Seoul gallery to Hyoja-dong. Despite its expansion, the gallery’s vision remains the same – to present the best in Chinese and Asian avant-garde as a way to encourage understanding and creativity across Asian art.
Located in Gyeongju’s Bomun Tourist Complex, Wooyang Museum of Contemporary Art is a private gallery that houses a number of collections of major modern and contemporary artists. Some 450 pieces of European and American sculptures, paintings, and photographs from the 1960s, in addition to noteworthy collections of Korean modernist art from the 1970s, are displayed for the viewing pleasure of the museum’s visitors. Various lectures and exhibitions are regularly held here, making this museum a major cultural hub in the local community.
Perhaps the most powerful and undoubtedly the most famous private gallery in Seoul, Leeum is a must-visit for anyone interested in art. Directed by Hong Ra-hee, wife of Samsung chairman Lee Kun-hee, Leeum is a center of Korean and world art. Designed by celebrated architects Mario Botta, Jean Nouvel and Rem Koolhaas, the museum’s architecture reflects the collection’s interplay between past and present. Dedicate at least an afternoon to explore dedicated areas displaying Korean traditional art, international contemporary art, and special exhibitions.
Soohohrom Busan Gallery is a small but noteworthy gallery that highlights various selections of contemporary art, running the gamut from big-name artists to rising young talent. Featured overseas artists include Michael Craig-Martin, Damien Hirst and Gaby Berglund Cardenas. The gallery has also exhibited the work of Jung Kang-ja, one of Korea’s first avant-garde artists to pioneer performance in art, organizing the first nude happening in Asia in 1968.
Situated in Hyoja-dong to the west of Gyeongbokgung Palace, is Gallery FACTORY, a small but punchy avant-garde space that has established itself as a steadfast presence in Seoul’s evolving art scene. The gallery encourages community participation through workshops and lectures, as well as by engaging in art consultation, public art projects, publications and international exchange programs. If you’re looking to discover the experimental work of up-and-coming artists based in Korea, Gallery FACTORY is certainly the place to do it.
Designed by French architect Laurent Beaudouin, the quaint white structure that is the Ungno Lee Museum of Art was built to commemorate the work of the artist Goam Ungno Lee (1904-1989), who devoted his life to the modernization and globalization of Korean tradition through architecture. Goam’s work, which epitomizes the harmony between East and West, is distributed throughout four halls, which seem to flow together in one continual, unified space.
Established in 2003, the small yet intimate Brain Factory is a non-profit exhibition space committed to promoting Korean contemporary art and artists. In addition, the gallery functions as an open studio for young artists to cultivate their creativity and confidence through a selection of classes and programs. Exhibits, which range from sculpture to photography, change consistently and guests are encouraged to browse the works on display at their own pace.
With its unmistakable yellow wooden exterior, Banana Long Gallery is one of the quirkiest and most charming galleries in all of Busan. Located in the famed art district of Haeuandae’s Dalmaji Hill – sometimes referred to as Montmartre of Busan – this atmospheric space has become a delightful landmark for locals and tourists alike since it opened its doors in 2008. Within its yellow walls, the gallery specializes in introducing and supporting emerging artists, and hosting diverse exhibitions.
With an aim to promote Daegu art’s advancement, the Daegu Art Museum presents exhibitions that introduce the social and artistic issues of the times, and illustrate the leading trends in both domestic and international art scenes. Rotating exhibitions include works that cover a wide range of mediums from contemporary sculpture to more classical painting styles. Academic programs and lectures led by renowned professors are also offered to visitors of all ages, while concerts and holiday events aim to bring the Daegu community together through art.