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Fresh, fun and easy to buy: Redesigning the art market

In new exhibitions, galleries get hands-on and more accessible
Apr 02,2019
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“Goods is Good” exhibition, held at the D Project Space in Yongsan District, central Seoul, through August, is a supermarket-themed art exhibition featuring goods designed by illustrators, animators and tattooists. The exhibit also sells unique drinks, like a yellow cocktail in a “urine sample” cup, right. [D PROJECT SPACE]
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Left: One of the spaces at Platform-L’s “Take Me Home” exhibition in Gangnam District, southern Seoul. Visitors are given a catalogue and stickers to mark the items they want to buy. Right: Tastehouse’s “TasteView” exhibition in Mapo District, western Seoul, showcases hundreds of works by 132 artists. Items range from paintings to trinkets like keychains. [PLATFORM-L AND HONG CHEOL-KI]
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Top: Sosho’s interior design objects on display at “Take Me Home,” held through May. Above: Rare and limited-edition posters are also on sale at the exhibition.
Exhibitions and art fairs have long served as the go-to platforms for artists to make a name for themselves and, hopefully, sell a piece of work or two at a booth or gallery gift shop.

Yet in the past few years, a new system of connecting with potential buyers and distributing artworks has begun to take shape. Most often, these rising platforms are interactive art spaces that present works by dozens of artists, ready for immediate purchase at accessible costs.

The D Project Space in Yongsan District, central Seoul, fully embraced the idea of selling artworks like products at a store when it opened “Goods is Good.” The unique exhibition is supermarket-themed, complete with fitting props like awnings and shopping carts, yet is stocked with hundreds of artistic items like t-shirts, postcards and picnic mats adorned with illustrations.

“We were brainstorming with artists about the future of the art space [and what] could replace art fairs when we thought of the familiar supermarket,” said Shin Na-yeong, assistant curator at Daelim Museum, which manages D Project Space.

For this project, the museum selected 35 illustrators, animators and tattooists “through Instagram,” notably mareykrap and Choi Jee-ook, and collaborated on designing and creating new items with them. True to the supermarket concept, items for sale in the “Goods is Good” exhibition are reasonably priced. Postcards go for as low as 990 won ($0.90), pins and badges are priced between 3,000 won to 4,000 won and entry is completely free.

“There are several limitations to art fairs. It’s really tiring for artists to be physically present at their booths, and they might not know the exact details of the goods they’re selling because they’re not the ones who made them,” Shin explained. “Also, fairs are always organized by artist. With the new supermarket concept, we tried breaking that format and grouped similar artists together under different categories.”

At “Goods is Good,” items and artworks are thoughtfully assigned to one of the exhibition’s four sections - fresh produce, seafood, meats and frozen foods - according to subject matter and color scheme.

The produce section, which holds props like egg cartons and artificial fruits, is home to fun and vibrantly colored artworks reminiscent of pop art and ’50s cartoons. The seafood corner showcases illustrations of sentimental-looking individuals, with some drawings placed at the bottom of water-filled glass containers for an extra-melancholy look. Drawings that emphasize the human body and sexual intimacy fill up the meat department, while the frozen section is an icy blue space of expressionless and stoic drawings. A bar at the exhibition’s center also sells creative beverages - an energy drink cocktail served in a small glass cup that reads “urine sample,” for one - whose flavors and cups have all been designed by artists.

“We’ve had a lot of visitors since our launch one month ago,” Shin said. “There are a lot of people in their 20s and 30s, as well as mothers who come in mistaking us for a real supermarket and then later returning with their families.”

Another exhibition that’s been making headlines for adding an interactive twist to the art-buying experience is Platform-L Contemporary Art Center’s “Take Me Home” exhibition in Gangnam District, southern Seoul.

With its 5,000 won entry fee and higher-end artworks, such as vases and tapestries, displayed in gallery rooms across several floors, “Take Me Home” better fits the traditional definition of an art exhibition.

What sets it apart from other exhibitions is the purchasing experience. All visitors receive a pack of stickers plus a booklet with labelled blank spaces for each item on sale. If they find something they want to “take home,” visitors only need to put a sticker on the slot reserved for that item and at the end of their tour, submit the booklet and pay for their purchases. The items available - a lot of home decor pieces and illustrated rugs - aren’t too expensive, with items starting at 15,000 won, making purchases attractive to non-collectors as well.

Platform-L collaborated with art collectives that specialize in alternative distribution spaces to plan the exhibition.

“‘Take Me Home’ features five independent platforms that display and distribute artworks - Sosho, Artist Proof, Pack, Factory 2 and Casuko,” explained Sopp Lee, Platform-L’s PR Contents Manager. “Since 2014, there’s been a growing phenomenon of young artists who manage organization, operation, promotion and sales themselves by collaborating with other artistic creators. We wanted to share these new display and distribution methods to increase the number of people who can enjoy artworks in their daily lives.”

If “Goods is Good” and “Take Me Home” can each be compared to a supermarket and a posh department store, Tastehouse’s “TasteView” exhibition offers yet another kind of purchasing experience in the form of an offline shop.

Although the small gallery space in Mapo District, western Seoul, may appear underwhelming at first, Tastehouse’s current exhibition features hundreds of works and prized possessions by 132 artists and teams including IAB Studio, all compactly organized into glass shelves. Prices range from as low as a couple thousand won to over one million won.

“We now have around 130 participating artists, up from 30 when we first opened ‘TasteView’ last year,” a staff member said. “Our goal for this shop is to create a space where goods can be freely bought and sold.”

BY KIM EUN-JIN [kim.eunjin1@joongang.co.kr]