Special interview with Director of Frieze Seoul, Pat Lee

Interview with Director of Frieze Seoul, Pat Lee, learn more about the many vibrant aspects that make Seoul a great city

in Frieze Seoul , Interviews | 07 SEP 23

In 5 words or less how would you describe the Seoul art scene and community?

Pat Lee  Compelling and deep rooted 

What song gets you in a Seoul mood?

PL I have to answer with two songs to this question.  The first is a classic rock song called “Haenim” written by Shin Joong-Hyun and Kim Jung Mi.  Shin Joong-Hyun was a real leader of counter-culture armed with his guitar and opponent of a dictatorial government in many ways.  The song “Haenim” translates into English as “The Sun” and is just a beautiful song, nothing overtly political but a celebration of the beauty of the Korean countryside.  The song has been covered by a wide array of artists and most recently by Jeff Schroeder who I think is a brilliant guitarist and his version is in collaboration with a vocalist named Heeya So and I think it is mesmerizing.  Also the model Soo Joo covered this song as her first single foray into music recorded under the name Desire & Ether.  It’s a more mellow electronic version but also nice.  Most any Korean who hears this song appreciates its simple beauty and melody.

My other song is by a group called 3rd Line Butterfly who were historically one of the more active indie rock bands led by Nam Sang-Ah.  She is such a strong performer and I’ve seen live many times.  I had one of my guitars signed twice by her. The first time I asked to have the front of it in blue marker and she was like, “are you sure you want me to sign the front of this guitar?” but the marker rubbed off as I played it so the second time she signed the headstock. If I were to choose one song it would be “Today, The Day of Separation” (which is how the song is translated on Apple Music). She just killed this song singing it live.  Unfortunately, she moved to France so the band is inactive.  

If I list other Korean bands I liked, say from the mid 90s and onwards, I would be dating myself and it wouldn’t be good for Frieze’s image maybe.  But, even then, the music scene is dynamic here in Seoul.  

Dinner with a collector, where do you go?

PL I think it must be some sort of barbeque place.  Currently, one of the most popular is called Geumdwaeji (Gold Pig in English) and I think it’s one of the best pork barbeque places I’ve been to in the city so the hype is deserved.  Another place I like for more just local comfort Korean food is in a rather touristy area in Seoul called Insa Dong called Twaemaru Restaurant.  But neither is fancy.

Best kept secret in Seoul?

PL There is a nice path near the National Theater (across from Banyan Tree hotel) that curves around Namsan Mountain.  No cars but fairly curvy and hilly. For those that like to run this, it’s a car free road with nice views of the North side of the city. The city also has great bike and running lanes that line the Han River on the north and south and are quite scenic. I’m not sure why I’m speaking about these types of things maybe because I have two months to get in shape and hopefully fit in my suits in time for the fair opening. 

Also there is a nice bar I like in Uljiro called the Edge. During the day the third floor houses a record shop where you can listen on a set of turntables and their selection of records is eclectic. During the evenings, they host great younger DJs and serve a nice selection of drinks. They recently opened a first floor and during the week serve food … the menu looks great though I have yet to try it.

What is your favorite museum restaurant?

PL Museums in Seoul don’t have restaurants as you might find in other cities.  Actually I can’t recall many museums in Seoul that have restaurants off the top of my head a la the Modern at MoMA.  I can recall more coffee or bars.  Art Sonje has a rotating “café” residency in their hanok next to the main building that I will always pop into.  Also Leeum has a coffee stand run by Champ Coffee which is a nice cup of coffee I think. 

Favorite spot for coffee?

PL Seoul is an amazing place for coffee lovers.  I like Low Key in Seongsu Dong and will always pop in when in the area. Hannam / Itaewon have a ton of coffee places. I go to Anthracite a lot as it’s on the main street and nice vibe.  A few near Leeum are Day Low, mtl and a place called Mother Offline. While Mother Offline is more of a bar, during the day they serve coffee and outside in the front they have a few patio chairs under a tree which can be a relaxing place to park it.  

What exhibition have you not managed to make it too yet?

PL I’m pretty good about making it to exhibitions though the best contemporary art are coming from the independent and non-profit spaces and I’m behind this past month but for good reason I suppose.  

5 new artists in the city to watch?

PL There are just so many talented young artists working today.  I would hesitate to describe those I like as new so maybe some of the independent spaces are the ones to watch and visit.  Places like Primary Practice, D/P, N/A, Doosan Gallery, Amado, Sarubia, Boan, Hapjungjigu, the list goes on.