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Seoul Cultural Calendar 2014: 10 Unmissable Events

Seoul Cultural Calendar 2014: 10 Unmissable Events

Picture of Marian Shek
Updated: 9 February 2017
Seoul, the capital city of South Korea, is a busy hub for arts and culture in the region, and a wonderful place to discover the latest global trends in art, music, performance and literature. Here are ten events on Seoul’s cultural calendar that will give you a taste of what Korea has to offer the discerning culture-lover.

Kusama Yayoi: ‘A Dream I Dreamed’ at Seoul Arts Center

Celebrated Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama will be bringing her touring exhibition, A Dream I Dreamed, to the Seoul Arts Center this year. The exhibition has already been shown at the Daegu Art Museum and will also travel to Shanghai, Taipei and New Delhi this year. More than 100 pieces of Kusama’s iconic artwork will be on show – paintings, sculptures, installations and film – with her famous polka-dot motif very much at the forefront. Kusama came to prominence as part of the New York avant-garde in the 1960s, and has continued to create artistic flights of fancy from her home in an institute for the mentally ill. Now in her eighties, and still working prolifically, she is a legend of contemporary art, which makes this exhibition an unmissable event.

Seoul Arts Center, 700 Seocho-dong, 2406 Nambusunhwan-ro, Seocho-gu, Seoul, South Korea, +82 2 580 1300


Seoul Open Art Fair

Since it was launched in 2006, the Seoul Open Art Fair (SOAF) has grown from a fledgling event, where artworks were priced at $2,000 and less, into one of the city’s biggest art gatherings. In 2013, 96 galleries and 13 enterprises from around the world participated in SOAF, which is held at the COEX Center in the heart of Gangnam. Though the scope and value of the art on show has grown over the years, SOAF has maintained its open attitude towards art appreciation, believing that it should be accessible to all. This makes it a great place to discover up-and-coming talent from Korea and beyond.

Seoul Open Art Fair, COEX Convention & Exhibition Center, 159 Samseong 1(il)-dong, Gangnam-gu, Seoul, South Korea


Seoul International Dance Festival

The Seoul International Dance Festival (SIDance) is the city’s premier dance festival, which since 1998 has become a forum for cultural exchange. Each year, the event brings a diverse range of international dance traditions to Seoul, ranging from Latin and flamenco to cutting-edge contemporary, with a side of hip hop and street dance thrown in, whilst also promoting Korean dance on an international stage. Past festivals have attracted companies from countries such as Canada, France and Taiwan, and have featured cross-cultural collaborations between the host country and Singapore, Australia and Finland. Now in its 17th year, the festival continues to inject a much-needed boost into the country’s dance scene, and promises to keep producing exciting opportunities for further innovation.

Venues to be confirmed. 


Leeum Tenth Anniversary Exhibition

The venerable Leeum, the Samsung Museum of Art, is one of Korea’s most powerful and respected art institutions. For its tenth anniversary, the museum is hosting a special exhibition that will showcase its diverse and comprehensive collection of ancient Korean artifacts and international contemporary art. The museum is known for its innovative presentation and use of technology. This unnamed exhibition will no doubt follow suit, being organized in such a way that shows how art transcends time, genre and place. Two notable pieces that will be on display are Untitled (Black Figure) by Jean-Michel Basquiat and North Wall by Do Ho Suh.

Leeum, Samsung Museum of Art, 60-16 Itaewon-ro 55-gil, Yongsan-gu, Seoul, South Korea, +82 2 2014 6901


SeMA Biennale

The Seoul Museum of Art (SeMA) has hosted the Seoul International Media Art Biennale, one of the few international biennials that focus on new media art, since 2000. This year, for its eighth edition, the event has been renamed SeMA Biennale Mediacity Seoul and will be led by the newly appointed artistic director Chan-kyong Park, a widely exhibited and award-winning media artist, filmmaker and curator. In the past, the biennial has presented experimental and cutting-edge, interdisciplinary practices in media art. It has developed dialogue between science, philosophy and new technology, and explored themes such as the moon (Luna’s Flow in 2002), the interplay between physical and virtual realities (Dual Realities in 2006) and the effects of social media on society (Spell On You in 2012). The biennial also works hard to introduce media art from under-represented regions, with a strong focus on Asian art. The overall theme and details of this year’s SeMa Biennale will be announced in April, but it is already shaping up to be a thought-provoking and fascinating event.

Seoul Museum of Art, 37 Seosomun-dong, Jung-gu, Seoul, South Korea, +82 2 2124 8800. 


Korea International Art Fair

The Korea International Art Fair (KIAF), held in the COEX center, is the country’s most prominent art fair. Now in its 13th year, KIAF was launched by the Galleries of Association of Korea as a way of revitalizing the domestic art market and developing towards the global stage. It is now one of the premier art fairs in Asia, acting as a hub for cutting-edge, contemporary Asian art. In 2013, the fair featured 183 galleries and attracted a crowd of 85,000 art lovers from around the world. Exhibitors for this year have yet to be announced, but expect top galleries from around the world and the latest work from a dizzying array of artists.

KIAF, COEX Convention & Exhibition Center, 159 Samseong 1(il)-dong, Gangnam-gu, Seoul, South Korea.


Seoul Performing Arts Festival

The Seoul Performing Arts Festival (SPAF), founded in 2001, is one of the country’s most prestigious arts and culture festivals. SPAF brings major companies from Korea and around the world to the city, covering a range of genres across theater, dance, and experimental, multidisciplinary performance. In 2013, the festival featured 19 performances by companies from seven countries, including France and the USA, with the focus on ‘Surrealism vs. Reality’. Contemporary Korean dance is also a strong feature of the festival, making it a wonderful window into the world of performance. This year, the festival will be hosted by the Arko Arts Theater and Daehak-ro Arts Theatre in the district of Daehak-ro. Further details will be announced in May or June via the SPAF website.

Various venues throughout the city.


The Seoul International Writers’ Festival

Organized by the Literature Translation Institute of Korea, the Seoul International Writers’ Festival (SIWF) is a platform for Korean and international literature, bringing together writers from around the world. The biannual event, launched in 2006 as the Seoul Young Writers’ Festival, retains its focus on world-renowned writers who are relatively young in the literary field – those born after 1960. Among the writers attending in the past are Korean novelists Kim Tae Yong and Park Seongwon, poets Kim Haengsook and Park Sangsoon, and novelists Susan Choi (USA), Lucy Fricke (Germany) and Oliverio Coelho (Argentina). In 2014, the festival took place on Jeju Island (21 – 22 September) and Seoul (23 – 27 September), and explored the theme of Eros and Dream in literature, alongside readings and performances.

Various venues throughout the city.



Hi Seoul Festival

The Hi Seoul Festival is an annual, week-long extravaganza that brings the streets of downtown Seoul to life. Each autumn, an average of 1.5 million people are drawn to this street art and performance festival. The festival has focused on non-verbal performances since 2012 in order to encourage communication between people of different ages and nationalities. The festival takes place on the city’s main plazas, Gwanghwamun Square, Seoul Plaza and Chyeonggye Plaza, and the surrounding streets, and features a wide variety of performances, installations and activities. In 2013, over 250 performances were presented by 72 groups from around the country and the world. But the denizens of Seoul remain the beating heart of this event, as they rediscover and redefine their relationship with their city.

Various locations throughout the city.



Seoul Independent Film Festival

The end of the year will see the 40th edition of the Seoul Independent Film Festival (SIFF), the leading event in Korean independent cinema. The festival presents films from every genre, providing a vital platform for the country’s independent filmmakers, with awards for outstanding domestic productions, whilst also showing notable independent films from around the world. SIFF 2013 featured international works such as Ken Loach’s documentary The Spirit of ’45 and Tsai Ming Liang’s Stray Dogs, which won the 2013 Grand Jury Prize at the Venice International Film Festival. The festival encourages social engagement and experimentation with form and ideas. The program has yet to be announced, but this year’s SIFF will no doubt be as eye opening and mind-blowing as ever.

Various venues throughout the city.