On Our Radar: Korean art at the Saatchi Gallery

From: The Featurettes

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Artwork by Lee Jaehyo at Korean Eye exhibition

Artwork by Lee Jaehyo at Korean Eye exhibition

If you have a passion for contemporary art, check out the Korean Eye exhibition at London’s Saatchi Gallery (pictured below) taking place until September 23. It’s a collection of modern art, showcasing the talents of some 33 Korean sculptors, painters and photographers.

I went to the gallery to meet Charm Lee, chief executive of the Korea Tourism Organisation, who said: “Korea has a vibrant artist community and shows like this one help our modern art become more well-known in Europe.”

As well as touching on Korea’s art scene, we also discussed air capacity growth. British Airways is resuming its service to Seoul on December 2, after a break of 14 years, and this, coupled with capacity increases from Korean Air and Asiana out of London in the past year, proves visitor demand, said Lee.

However, he admitted the biggest headache for the destination was the slow growth of hotel infrastructure. The first six months of this year saw a 25% growth in inbound tourism compared with the same period last year. “But hotel capacity doesn’t grow at the same rate,” he said.

Korea does have a wide choice of accommodation though, from homestays to luxury hotels. Homestays are offered in rural villages that have barely changed in 600 years and where inhabitants still follow ancient Confucian traditions in diet and lifestyle.

'Written in soap' at Korean Eye exhibition

‘Written in soap’ at Korean Eye exhibition

It’s this sort of authenticity that Korea is keen to promote, along with its natural beauty and niche appeal.

“We’re not a mass-market destination for European tourists,” explained Lee, highlighting bird-watching and medical tourism as two markets it aims to corner. Acupuncture and herbal treatments are offered all over the country, and as well as healing your body, you can refresh your soul in one of 60,000 Buddhist temples.

I also met one of Korea’s young artists, Meekyoung Shin, who spent six months on a remarkable carving from soap. She recreated an equestrian statue of the Duke of Cumberland (right), which is on a plinth in Cavendish Square in London until June 30, 2013. See it before the statue starts to weather!

www.gokorea.co.uk

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