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Frieze Week Seoul 2023

A Continent’s Emerging Artists Come Together in Focus Asia

The section sees globally resonant themes explored by emerging artists from Singapore to Shanghai

BY Reena Devi in Frieze Seoul , Frieze Week Magazine | 04 SEP 23

The second edition of Frieze Seoul returns with the popular Focus Asia section, curated once again by Hyejung Jang, Chief Curator, DOOSAN Gallery, along with Joselina Cruz, Director and Curator at the Museum of Contemporary Art and Design (MCAD), De La Salle-College of Saint Benilde, Manila. Ten galleries in operation since 2011, which have already made a name for themselves regionally, will stage solo presentations by significant artists from across Asia and beyond. This year will differ from the previous edition, with an increased installation element. “I hope that visitors will take the entire section as a single exhibition,” says Jang, “looking closely at individual works but also experiencing the energy that it exudes as a whole. I’d also hope that visitors discover artists they can keep an eye out for in the future.”

Rondi Park, And I Need You More Than I Want You , 2021.
Rondi Park, 'And I Need You More Than I Want You', 2021, installation view. Courtesy: the artist and White Noise; photograph: Haeran Lee

One of four participating Seoul-based galleries, Cylinder—who launched a second space in the city earlier this year in May—makes its Frieze Seoul debut with new works by millennial Korean artist Sinae Yoo, titled “Post Truth”. The series explores the complexities of truth and falsehood, questioning the nature of reality and the role of subjectivity in shaping our understanding of the world. The highlight of the presentation is an altar piece reminiscent of a life-sized old master painting in its aesthetic. Yet the painting presents a post-apocalyptic scene filled with angelic creatures akin to futuristic cyborgs. Cylinder’s founder Ro Dooyong explains that while the frame appears to be a studious copy of classic religious art, Yoo’s reinterpretation captures both secular and sacred moments in our hyper digitalized society.

White Noise, another local gallery also participating at the fair for the first time, is presenting Korean artist Rondi Park, dubbed by The New York Times earlier this year as an “astonishingly talented” artist. Her vividly colourful, almost cartoon-like works are known for their witty, sarcastic, yet romantic, perspectives on the effects of capitalism on our daily lives. Cho Jungmin, director of the gallery, compares the sensibility behind Park’s works as being similar to “all of our child-hoods when we craved for sincere friends and were honest with our desires”.

Sinae Yoo, Penpal, 2023. Courtesy: the artist and Cylinder

Dubai’s Lawrie Shabibi’s inaugural showcase at Frieze Seoul features a solo presentation of marble inlay works by Kuwait-born, Lahore-based artist Hamra Abbas, handmade in collaboration with local craftsmen whose techniques date back to the Mogul era. The highlight of the booth will be a large-scale triptych made entirely out of grayscale marble depicting the iconic form of K2, the world’s second-highest peak after Everest, located in Pakistan. “Captured by countless photographers, this archetypal image of white snow, rock formations and perfect blue skies has become a symbol for the quest of perfection and truth,” says Asmaa Al-Shabibi, the gallery’s director. Al-Shabibi hopes that Abbas will be a great discovery for collectors and institutions in South Korea and Asia. Singapore’s Yeo Workshop is returning for its second Focus Asia, showcasing young Singaporean artist Priyageetha Dia. Known for her distinctive voice exploring the international artistic landscape of histories, labour, feminism and technology, Dia exhibited at the Singapore Art Museum this year. Building on her exploration of the histories of plantations in Malaya under British colonial rule, Dia’s multimedia installation at the museum primarily comprised a video work with intensely visceral visuals of burning forests within an enclosed meditative space.


Hamra Abbas, Mountain 6, 2023. Courtesy: the artist and Lawrie Shabibi.
Hamra Abbas, Mountain 6, 2023. Courtesy: the artist and Lawrie Shabibi.

The gallery’s founder, Audrey Yeo says, “This year, our mission remains to showcase another important artist from this new generation of Singaporeans, and create meaningful conversations with international audiences.”

The artists presented at Frieze Seoul 2023’s Focus Asia platform are taking on timely and relevant themes that resonate globally. “Rather than referring to [the section’s] characteristics as Asian culture in general,” says Jang, “I think it is more appropriate to see them as a shared thematic consciousness within the generations of participating galleries and artists, and the themes are uniquely expressed based on their local culture and the individuality of the artists.”

This article first appeared in Frieze Week, Seoul 2023 under the headline 'Depth of Field'

Main image: Rondi Park, What We Want and What We Think We Want, 2021, gouache, acrylic, ink on canvas. Courtesy: the artist and White Noise; photograph: Haeran Lee

Reena Devi is a journalist and editor. She lives in Singapore.