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Art Toy Culture 2018 offers fun for everyone : Annual expo brings artists and creatives from around the world to Seoul

May 05,2018
Left: French illustrator Jean Jullien signs autographs and draws characters for fans at the Art Toy Culture fair. Right: American artist Jason Freeny holds a workshop where he shows audiences how he designs and creates his characters. [ART VENTURE]
Left: Visitors at the Art Toy Culture fair participate in making their very own Playmobil toy. Right: TOiNZ creates ceramic art pieces with special stories and cartoons to add meaning behind each work.
American artist Jason Freeny shows visitors at the fair how to create this half skeletal sculpture of Ryan, a popular character by the Korean brand Kakao Friends. [ART VENTURE, SUNG JI-EUN]
When people think about art, toys are usually not the first thing that comes to mind. However, a visit to Art Venture’s Art Toy Culture fair at Coex in southern Seoul reveals that toys can surely be objects of high creative expression. One of the most important conventions for the art toy scene in Korea, this year marks the fair’s fifth anniversary.

Art Toy Culture 2018 brings the international toy market with its diverse designers and brands to Korea and various art toys, props and knick-knacks made by approximately 150 teams of creators, respected artists, designers and companies. This year, Art Venture has invited both local designers and artists from countries such as France, the United States, China and Japan.

Global artists add humor

One notable artist is French graphic illustrator and the creator behind the main poster design of the exhibit, Jean Jullien. His illustrations mixes humor with his own distinct point of view. On May 2, the fair’s opening day, Jullien signed autographs for fans and drew characters for people free of charge. For those who missed the first few days of the exhibition, Jullien will hold another autograph signing event on Sunday.

American artist Jason Freeny also made a visit to not only showcase his works but also to hold a workshop. The artist’s most well-known pieces are his half dissected sculptures of famous animation characters and toys. During the workshop, Freeny explained his designs and also showed people how to create a character sculpture.

Thinking like entrepreneurs

Among the many booths are some interesting pieces that grab the attention of curious eyes. TOiNZ is a brand that focuses on creating ceramic art pieces, each with its own story to tell. Lee Sang-cheol, the CEO of TOiNZ, explained how the establishment of his brand began from his love for characters.

“I loved creating different characters, and when I began designing art pieces, I knew each item needed a story and a meaning behind them,” said Lee. Many of his works have a short story or a mini cartoon to explain the piece.

At another booth, characters were being made as part of a collaboration between one of Korea’s most prominent 3D printing companies, Sentrol, and various artists such as Kikakuv, Bugaboo and Ppyame Studio. Sentrol X is the corporation’s latest collaboration project in which they offer designers, companies or organizations 3D modeling, printing, molding, painting, customizing and mass production services for their designs.

There are also many brands at the exhibit showcasing creative products such as Javi, a toy furniture brand that is displaying a coat rack with hands made of magnets that hold people’s items from clothing to bags. Each coat rack has a different theme such as the Disney character Mickey Mouse’s hands and Marvel superhero Iron Man’s hands.

Character fun for everyone

Many of the booths also have their own set of events to attract the interest of visitors. Some artists sit down to draw caricatures for people, while others give out free items to those who follow their social media pages.

As part of the fair, Art Toy Culture also offers short animated film screenings at all times for people to stop, rest and enjoy in the lounge. However, for those looking for more exciting events, there is a Virtual Reality (VR) zone in the back of the exhibition hall where visitors can experience VR activities from games to roller coasters for just 5,000 won ($4.64).

Aside from booths that showcase their brands and products, the expo also has many food trucks and cafes. In the middle of the arena, you can find ice cream brand Baskin Robbins selling items decorated with Minion characters all over its exterior, and right next to it are bean bags laid out for people to rest and enjoy their ice cream.

For those in need of never-before-seen shots for their Instagram, the expo offers many “photo zones.” At the entrance is a wide photo wall with characters from the fair’s poster, where friends can stand and pose together. In the middle area of the expo, there are life-size figures of characters such as Marvel’s Spiderman and toy brand Playmobil’s characters placed side by side. The best photo zones, however, are hidden within booths decorated with cute and colorful dolls that will liven any photo.

The fair began Wednesday and will run until Sunday. Tickets are available on the Art Toy Culture webpage and anywhere else tickets are sold.

BY SUNG JI-EUN [sung.jieun@joongang.co.kr]
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