Hakgojae Gallery first opened its doors in Seoul, a financial hub of Asia, in 1988. Since then, Hakgojae Gallery has been at the center of the Korean art market, which has been growing rapidly, and has been charting directions on how Korean art ought to be harmonized and developed within the contemporary global culture.
The gallery's name derives from the saying, "to review the old to learn the new (學古創新)" in the Analects of Confucius. However, gaining knowledge of the past is not necessarily equivalent to studying historical facts. In fact, the process of learning the past in Korea, where the tragic history of being victimized by Japanese colonialism and the division of the country is very much alive, accompanies excruciating self-reflection. Nonetheless, to be able to confidently reach out to readily participate in the global cultural flow despite its past struggles with the right perception and reflection of history is the true philosophy behind the saying, "to review the old to learn the new." This is the very ideology and orientation that develops Hakgojae Gallery as the gallery that connects both the old and new, and the region to the world. Hakgojae Gallery’s identity is clearly revealed through the exhibitions it has held.
Hakgojae Gallery has been continuously presenting more than 200 exhibitions, focusing on bridging between the past and the new. Hakgojae Gallery has not neglected its efforts to see through what the ‘new’ of the present is going to last and become the ‘old’ in the time to come. Such efforts, which consist of the identity of Hakgojae Gallery, are also an important role as a responsible cultural institution of Korean, Asian, and furthermore, the global art market. Hakgojae Gallery laid the foundation of this vision and role by presenting historical art exhibitions that were curated by prestige art historians such as Paintings in the Late of Korean Empire (1988), Calligraphy in the Middle of Joseon Dynasty (1990), Landscape of Meeting and Parting (2000).
Hakgojae Gallery also has been steadily showing works of precursors, who have reinterpreted traditional Korean philosophy and spirit through the language of contemporary art. Exhibitions representative of this fact are solo exhibitions by Nam June Paik, the founder of video art (Shanghai 2014; Seoul 2015), Lee Ufan, an advocate for Dansaekhwa (Seoul 2008), Chung Sang Hwa, a foremost artist of Dansaekhwa (Seoul 2007), Yun Suknam, a pioneering figure of Asian feminist art (Seoul 1997; 2009; 2013; 2018; 2021), Ma Liuming, the most compelling performance artist of our time (Sanghai and Seoul 2014; Seoul 2018), and Jia Youfu (Seoul 2006) and Tian Liming (Seoul 2014), leading artists of modern-day Chinese ink painting. These exhibitions unveiled the artistic depth of masterpieces at their highest, and cemented the gallery's status as a leading exhibitor of historical and modern art in both Korea and Asia.
Hakgojae Gallery has been endeavoring to solidify the roots of Korean modern and contemporary art. Seeking “Eidos”: Korean Abstract Painters 7 (2022) was an exhibition that reilluminated the oeuvres of artists such as Ree Bong Sang, Ryu Kyung Chai, Kang Yong-un, Rhee Sang-Wooc, Cheon Pyongkun, Haindoo, and Ri Namkyu. Hakgojae Gallery aspires to continuously create opportunities for research and illumination of pioneers of Korean modern art through various exhibitions. Hakgojae Gallery's diligent patronage of Korean “Minjung art” (Korean social realism art) played a large part in attaining significant prestige in Korea. The rise of the Korean economy in the ‘70s and ‘80s fueled a call for democratization of the country. Minjung art sprang from the cultural uprising against the government, which was under a strict military dictatorship at the time. Subsequently, Hakgojae Gallery was the first of its kind to exhibit works of prominent Minjung artists such as Oh Yoon, Shin Hak-Chul, Kang Yo-bae, Lee Jong-gu, etc. Art history, not only Korean but universal as well, is newly shedding light on Minjung art, as a significant accomplishment in its legacy. Despite many setbacks, Hakgojae Gallery's insightful decision to support art that best represented the “Spirit of the Age” certainly made the gallery stand out from its peers.
Many times the gallery has shown great discernment in its involvement with pioneers at the forefront of contemporary art, through sharp observation of the changes of the times and trends. The pioneering artists include Yun Suknam, Park Young Ha, Kim Sundoo, Kim Ho-deuk, Noh Suntag, Song Hyun-sook, Lee Yongbaek, Chung Hyun, Kim Hyunsik, Park Jong Kyu, Kim Young-Hun, Park Gwangsoo, Jang Jaemin, Heo Suyoung, Lee Woosung, Kim Eun Jeong, Ji Keun Wook, etc. Some of these artists were invited to global biennales including Venice Biennale and Gwangju Biennale and received favorable reviews, while others participated or are scheduled to participate in exhibitions at leading art museums in Asia and Europe.
As part of implementing teachings of "to review the old to learn the new," Hakgojae Gallery introduced an array of dynamic works by internationally acclaimed artists in the Korean art market. This effort includes exhibitions such as Minimalism as Landscape (1997), compromised of works by important American minimalists Frank Stella, Donald Judd, Robert Mangold, Richard Tuttle, Agnes Martin, and Robert Ryman; the twentieth-anniversary exhibition titled, Sensitive System (2008), curated by Lóránd Hegyi, the director of Musée D'art Moderne de Saint-Etienne Métropole France, featuring works of Lee Ufan, Roman Opalka, Giuseppe Penone, and Günther Uecker; and Unconstraint Creation (2014) in Hakgojae Shanghai, curated by Yun Chea Gap, the director of Hao Art Museum Shanghai, featuring works of Chung Sang Hwa, Ha Chong Hyun, and Lee Ufan. Other notable exhibitions of leading international artists at Hakgojae Gallery include Le Corbusier, Jean-Pierre Raynaud, Bernard Frize, Zhang Huan, etc. Hakgojae Gallery had presented works by German artist Tim Eitel twice, both in his solo exhibitions in 2011 and 2017, and recently presented works by notable international artists such as British artist Fiona Rae, Swedish artist Andreas Eriksson, German artist, Thomas Scheibitz in their solo exhibitions.
To provide a platform to promote Korean artists worldwide and attract accomplished international artists to local exhibitions, Hakgojae Gallery has been actively participating in numerous international art fairs. To name a few, Hakgoaje Gallery has been participating in Art Basel Hong Kong since 2008 (Hong Kong Art Fair at the time) until now, Frieze Masters, Art Brussels, Taipei Dangdai, ARCO in Spain, ACAF and ART Chicago in the U.S., Drawing Now Paris, London Art Fair, Art Beijing, etc.
Hakgojae Gallery has been an interchange station where the past and present intersect, East and West communicate, and regions of the world interconnect. The gallery's distinctive identity of bringing two worlds together is also embedded in its architecture. Housed within the traditional Korean Hanok, the main building renovated back in 1995 represents the past whereas the new annex, constructed back in 2008 to celebrate the gallery's twentieth anniversary, boasts every characteristic of the 21st century. Meditating lessons from the past at its age-old edifice, and facing pursuit of the present at its cutting-edge complex, Hakgojae Gallery enables us to envision how our tomorrows are to be forged. Hakgojae Gallery has a firm belief in the incomprehensible side of art. Unleashing creativity has always gone beyond the boundaries of reason and common sense at the time. Hakgojae Gallery is always looking for artists who are able to contribute insight and astonishment by virtue of the incomprehensible law. And we hope, more than anything in this world, to be able to contribute insight, and the pleasure of advancement based on artistic creativity by sharing moments of joy and sorrow with artists who will shape the future.