The eccentric Korean entrepreneur and contemporary art collector C.I. Kim has told a Korean newspaper that he intends to open a commercial art gallery in New York in 2007. Mr Kim has become increasingly involved in the contemporary art market in Asia, recently opening a Beijing branch of his Arario Gallery, primarily devoted to the promotion and sale of works by young Chinese and Korean artists.
Speaking to the Korean newspaper Sergye Ilbo in November, Mr Kim said that opening galleries in Beijing and New York was part of a plan to enter the international art market. The flamboyant Korean businessman, who is himself a prolific artist, will be an interesting presence in the New York gallery scene with his substantial resources.
Having made a fortune in restaurants and transport, Mr Kim founded the Arario Gallery in a shopping centre in the town of Cheonan, South Korea. Since its opening in 1989 it has displayed highlights from Mr Kim’s spectacular art collection, which includes Damien Hirst’s giant sculptures Hymn and Charity, as well as many other works by contemporary British and German artists, leading to inevitable comparisons with Charles Saatchi.
More recently Arario has started to promote a roster of young artists from Korea and China. Arario provides these artists with studios, materials and financial support in return for an agreed number of works and representation rights.
With the gallery system in Korea still in its infancy, Arario has set an example for investment in contemporary art. The opening of Arario Beijing is a step in the same direction, tapping into the wealth of emerging talent in China. With a huge neon art work reading Made in China by Sui Juan Guo on the roof of Arario Beijing, Mr Kim’s commitment to Chinese art has never been clearer, and his plan is to nurture a stable of artists that will compete on an international level.
“Mainstream galleries in Europe and New York not only have internationally recognised Western artists but also acquire a large quantity of Chinese artists’ works”, he said. “To be competitive with galleries in New York, it is essential to represent a solid list of artists”.
Ludovic Bois, the director of Chinese Contemporary, which has galleries in London and Beijing, told The Art Newspaper that Mr Kim had everything in place to become a major player in the field of Chinese contemporary art. “He has been collecting for 10 years and seems prepared to sell at the right price,” he said. “It is hard to tell what his intentions are. He likes big works, but there are no prices in his Beijing gallery”. Mr Bois said that New York was certainly the best place to set up a high profile gallery for Chinese contemporary art.