Seoul tour: a culture trip through the Korean capital

Seoul tour: a culture trip through the Korean capital

With new galleries, bustling bars and soon the inaugural edition of Frieze Seoul, all eyes are on the South Korean capital. Our ‘Postcard from Seoul’ tour explores the cultural must-sees of the moment

The summer monsoon season in Seoul brings with it a biblical rain that does not rain but saturates. Every time the rain clears, a new Seoul is born; umbrellas become umbrellas and the muted urban vista gives way to a vibrant old-meets-new vernacular, accentuated by a lush, mountainous backdrop.

In recent years, Seoul has undergone a different kind of rebirth. After the international phenomena of K-pop, K-beauty, K-style and K-cinema, now seems to be the time for K-art, thanks to the rise of local players and the arrival of international cultural titans. Our art editor, Harriet Lloyd-Smith, explores how, with new museums and galleries, bustling bars and restaurants and soon the inaugural edition of Frieze Seoul (September 2 – 5, 2022), all eyes are on the South Korean capital.

Postcard from Seoul: 8 must-sees in the field of art and culture

International Galleries

teamLab, Continuous life and death in the Now of Eternity II, 2019, Digital Work, 12 channels, Endless© teamLab, courtesy of Pace Gallery

In addition to acclaimed native galleries such as Hyundai and Kukje, a new wave of global blue-chips – including Thaddaeus Ropac, Lehmann Maupin and König – have come to Seoul for a slice of the action. Ahead of Frieze Seoul 2022, two major players have announced ambitious expansions. Pace Gallery will expand its multi-level arts complex to include a new courtyard with outdoor sculptures, while Perrotin will open a new space in the upscale Gangnam shopping district, which joins its original outpost in the historic Jongno arts district.

Frisian Seoul

The first edition of Frieze Seoul marks an important moment for the Asian art scene. Held at Coex from September 2-5, 2022 and led by director Patrick Lee, Frieze’s fourth global venue and the first in Asia, will welcome more than 110 galleries and include a special section, Focus Asia. This highly anticipated addition to the art world calendar will take place alongside KIAF (the Korea International Art Fair) and will put Korean art firmly on the international stage.

Coex, 513 Yeongdong-daero, Gangnam-gu, 06164, Seoul
fries.com

Seoul Museum of Craft Art: ‘Craft, going beyond time and boundaries’

Craft, Moving Beyond Time and Boundaries (until August 15, 2022) is an exhibition exploring how age-old traditions can collide with contemporary experimental approaches, taking place at the Seoul Museum of Craft Art, which opened in 2021 as the first institution of its kind in Korea. Korean handicrafts also took the spotlight at the recent 2022 Loewe Foundation Craft Prize, which was showcased at the museum in July, where seven of the 30 international finalists came from South Korea, including this year’s winner, horsehair weaver Dahye Jeong.

Sanchon

All this cultural consumption requires sustenance, and a culinary gem lurking in a backstreet of the Insadong district promises to awaken taste buds you never knew you had. Sanchon is an acclaimed vegan temple restaurant founded by a former Buddhist monk. The soul- and body-cleansing à la carte menu offers distinctive dishes featuring kimchi, tofu, seaweed, japchae glass noodles, and lotus fruit – the latter a spicy experience for the unsavory palate. The food is accompanied by live piano music, live birds chirping, abundant living greenery and an adjacent art gallery.

2-1 Gwanhun-dong, Jongno-gu, Seoul

‘Meta-horizons: the future now’

‘Meta-Horizons: the Future Now’ by Zaha Hadid Architects in collaboration with Refik Anadol at the Dongdaemun Design Plaza Design Museum, Seoul

The exhibition ‘Meta-Horizons: The Future Now’ (until September 18, 2022) opens the new Design Museum in the Zaha Hadid Architects-designed Dongdaemun Design Plaza and examines ZHA’s work in the fields of digital technology, artificial intelligence, virtual reality and sustainable strategies. Created in collaboration with artist Refik Anadol Studio (who created the Seoul Light: Seoul Haemong multimedia public installation at DDP in 2019), the show is a captivating, multidisciplinary clash of virtual and physical worlds.

Wellness K at Kukje Gallery

Kukje Gallery’s Wellness K. Photography: Chunho An. Image courtesy of Kukje Gallery.

With its unique combination of world-class art, wellness, food and design, Kukje is part art gallery, part state-of-the-art lifestyle hub. Within the K1 building of the multifunctional art complex (which won a Wallpaper* Design Award in 2021) is Wellness K, an inventive combination of fitness, mindfulness and aesthetics. Within a space designed by Teo Yang studio, the wellness center offers members personalized programs including strength and core training, yoga, dance and meditation. What could be more invigorating than lifting weights within the foot of a Julian Opie?

Oul at the Four Seasons Seoul

Cocktail hour at the Four Seasons Seoul has long been dominated by the “secret” underground speakeasy that is Charles H. But above ground, the newly opened Oul shakes things up. The late-night bar concept, aligned with the Korean “Generation MZ” (which includes millennials and Gen Z), offers a contemporary take on a long history of making and fermenting Korean liqueur, such as a redesigned cinnamon punch from the Gyeongseong era, and a Kimchi Highball with a twist of green chili soju. With its dynamic Obangsaek color palette and neon sign, Oul is a new mixology hotspot for experimental night owls.

SongEun Art & Culture Foundation

Photography: Jihyun Jungo

Seoul has long been a hub for projects by internationally renowned architects, from Mario Botta, Jean Nouvel, and Rem Koolhaas (who each designed a wing of Leeum, Samsung Museum of Art) to Dominique Perrault, whose Ewha Womans University blends seamlessly into the hillside landscape. In late 2021, the Swiss firm Herzog & de Meuron made their South Korean debut with the SongEun Art & Cultural Foundation, an 11-storey angular, monolithic structure in the upscale Gangnam district. The building – which houses a non-profit cultural space that champions Korean and international emerging art – has become something of a landmark in Seoul, an achievement in a city defined by such a dense urban tapestry.

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