It is an "extra-ordinary" and unique “mogulesque” framework, that has unfurled, on a territory of approximately 97 000 km2, 70% of which is mountainous; an economy and an architectonic hierarchy of culture and contemporary art!

South Korea barely covers 1/5th of France and its history has evolved at top speed. In the space of two decades (1960-1980) the South Korean agricultural society transformed into an industrial society. This spectacular process of industrialisation led to a democracy in 1987 with the adoption of a new constitution after a popular uprising led by students. In a dazzling manner, the country gained its freedom from 40 years of dictatorial regimes and a long period of colonisation by Japan (1905-1945).

Nevertheless, before South Korea had actually inaugurated its own national pavilion in 1996, Korean artists were already participating in major international events, like the Venice Biennale in 1986.

South Korea is now the 11th largest world economy ahead of the Netherlands, Spain and Switzerland. It is now established as a major cultural hub and paves the way in Asia. Its audience is avid for quality and innovations and its artists, who have won international acclaim, are now firmly positioned on the contemporary art market.

Museums developed by Samsung, Hyundai and LG have a prominent place and, in the image of these “mogules”, industry consortiums or (chaebols), a remarkable system has been installed on the functional landscape and on the scene of contemporary art. This system’s structures encompass, at the same time, the function of gallery and auction house, whilst others have artists who are art collectors and/or directors of galleries and cultural centres. These centres also serve as exhibition spaces, commercial galleries, shopping centres, theaters, restaurants, boutiques and the artists, for the most part, are financially provided for by companies and the government. Now we can better understand the frantic development of South Korean contemporary art that furthermore, has an unreserved commitment to global hyper-technologisation, and especially through images. South Korean contemporary photography and video are one of the most dynamic mediums in Asia.

We have devoted over 100 pages to contemporary South Korean art in order to better share with you this effervescent art scene as nowadays the peninsula, with its growing number of public and private institutions, has no trouble making a name for itself on the international panorama of the world’s contemporary art, for instance, the Gwanju and Busan Biennale, which enjoy both recognition and influence.

By deduction, the future development of the South Korean artistic expression will transport us into a dimension where new technologies will be the majority amongst a panel of mediums, that are already and will continue to be valued by a local and, of course, an international public.

by Corinne Timsit