Collector profile: The unstoppable Mr Kim

Businessman, artist, collector—and dealer?



The businessman and artist C.I. Kim has been buying art for 25 years and is now Korea’s biggest collector of contemporary art after corporate buyers, Samsung.

Like Charles Saatchi in London, the Rubells in Miami and other collectors, Mr Kim has, over the last few years, fallen for the crop of young painters emerging from former East German cities such as Leipzig, demonstrating just how closely the tiny global elite of contemporary collectors watch what their competitors in the market place are buying.

Ms Henna Joo, director of the Arario Gallery, told The Art Newspaper that for the past six years Mr Kim has been buying the work of young German artists as well as established practitioners such as Anselm Keifer, and Sigmar Polke, the subject of the Arario Gallery’s current show. Over the next three years, Mr Kim will devote a series of shows to German art, next up being “Cold heart: artists from Leipzig” with work by the likes of Neo Rauch, Rosa Loy, Tilo Baumgaertel and David Schnell.

Mr Kim is also collecting contemporary Korean art, and recently announced an unusual contractual arrangement with eight young artists under which the artists are provided with studios and materials and, in return, will provide Mr Kim with a selection of work.

Mr Kim’s art is currently on show in the Arario Gallery, inside one of his department stores in Cheonan. To accommodate the 3,500 works he now owns, Mr Kim has plans to build another museum three times the size of the present gallery. Tentatively called Another Arario, Mr Kim hopes the space will open by 2010. British architect David Adjaye is being considered as a designer. According to Ms Joo once the new space is complete, Mr Kim may decide to explore “commercial possibilities”. If he does decide to start dealing, his international influence will help shift the geo-politics of the contemporary market even further East.

Originally appeared in The Art Newspaper as 'The unstoppable Mr Kim'