Another Korean gallery for Chelsea

NEW YORK. Gana Art Gallery, the sprawling Seoul gallery, opened a two-floor 7,400 sq. ft branch in New York’s Chelsea gallery district in March, in time for Asia Week. Other Gana branches are in Paris and Busan, also in Korea.

The inaugural New York show was by Bien-U Bae, whose lyrical photographs of pine trees brought him fame in his native South Korea (installation view above). The show featured Bae’s large, glossy works, priced from $40,000 to $80,000.

Bae says he “yearns” to be known as “a world artist”, not a Korean artist. His dealer, 28-year-old Bong Lee, says he aims to help Bae and other artists fulfil that desire, hence the move to New York. “Everyone still feels New York is the centre for up-and-coming artists,’’ said Mr Lee. “All the artists want to go to Chelsea.”

Gana Art was founded in 1983 by Mr Lee’s father, Ho-Jae Lee, who imported artists such as Braque and Johns to Korea. He later promoted Korean contemporary artists and expanded his empire to include Seoul Auction House, which had sales of about $120m in 2007, said Mr Lee.

Gana has benefited from a Korean art explosion over the past few years, as auction houses and galleries have sprung up across Seoul. “The art bubble has come back to Korea,” says Mr Lee. The Lees join a flurry of other Korean galleries who have recently alighted to Chelsea, such as Arario Gallery, founded by collector and dealer Ci Kim, and Tina Kim Fine Arts.

Lindsay Pollock

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