Non-profit Exhibition Spaces in Seoul


By : Hyun-mi YOO, Artist / Independent curator, Seoul

There are approximately 150 Museums, 500 galleries, and exhibition spaces in Korea.
149 museums (44 art museums, 76 museums, 29 college museums)
501 galleries and cultural centers (222 in Seoul, 279 outside of Seoul)
This data is based on ‘Korean Art Annual’ from monthly art magazine ‘Wolganmisul’.

First, I simply divide art exhibition spaces into two parts.
1. Profit Galleries: Commercial galleries and rental galleries

2. Non profit exhibition spaces
(I divide into 3 parts in terms of whose running them) a. Government-Run museum and gallery
b. Private Company-Run exhibition spaces
(They are Alternative spaces, Museums, Galleries, and Artist Studios organized by art foundations or companies.)
c. Independent Alternative spaces

In this presentation, I would like to focus on three types of Non-Profit exhibition spaces: government-run museums and galleries, private-company run exhibition spaces, and independent alternative spaces.

a. Government-Run Museums and Galleries (Government runs public museums, galleries, and artist studios)
These government-run museums include national museums, municipal museums, and special museums for many occasions. There are several galleries and artist spaces including alternative spaces.

Seoul City also made ‘Insa Art Space’, which has independent administration and programming. Insa Art Space’s direction is more close to an alternative art space than a public gallery.

b. Private Company-Run Exhibition Spaces (Alternative spaces, Museums, Galleries, and Artist Studios)
While corporate sponsorship is always sought as an alternative option of funding, some of the companies start their own art spaces. This is the most interesting phenomenon in Seoul.

For last 5 years many of private companies had built their own Exhibition spaces. The companies run these exhibition spaces as a part of contribution to the public and as a part of indirect Advertisement to refresh the image of the companies. And they wanted to be involved in the cultural scenes. Such as: Samsung Group has 4 museums including Hoam and Rodin Museum. There are many other examples we could see such as: Posco Art Museum that is run by Posco, steel company, Sung-gok Museum that is run by Ssang Yong, a car company, Il-Min Museum that is run by Dong-A Daily News, Woo-Duk Gallery that is run By Yakult, a yogurt company Nabi, a media art center that is run by SK Group. Young-un Museum and artist residency program by Daeyoo Company, a stock and finance company.

Recently notable examples are Ssamzie Space from Ssamzie, a fashion company, and Art Sunje Center was established by Daewoo Group.

The Ssamzie Art Space is a seven-story building in Seoul with galleries, concert space, and studio spaces. It is run by fashion company, Ssamzie, for "cultural marketing". They have 3 galleries mostly for young artists, and 8 studio spaces for 1year studio program also mostly for young and international artists. They also support underground rock musicians as well, and they run their own concert space.

Daewoo Group runs 2 museums - Art Sunje center. Art Sunje Center has been separated from Daewoo Group, and now is run independently. Art Sunje Center has an exhibition space and theatre. There also is Sunje Museum that under same management in Kyungju, another city in Korea. This Art Sunje Center is one of the most active and international contemporary art spaces in Korea.

c. Independent - Alternative space
There are a few non-profit independent alternative spaces in Korea such as Loop, Arti Nus, Pool, and, Project Space Sarubia. These are initiated by the art communities. Funding for these spaces mostly come from personal support, workshop, party, and partially supported by the Korean Culture and Arts Foundation (less than 30%).

Some of these spaces strongly contribute to Korean contemporary art scene with they energetic activities as frontiers. They have very good reputation and good relationship with many young challenging artists with new ideas.

And there also are newer and more casual spaces such as Art Side Café, Brick and Bread, and Dong Dong. Some of them are run by private shops.

I am personally interested in private company-run spaces since there is unlimited possibility that we can develop. We need them to understand how it could be indirect advertisement and how efficient it could be. It could be easier if we could make international networking and activities more properly.