Gagosian has named veteran Seoul gallerist Jiyoung Lee as its first full-time director in South Korea, signaling its intentions to expand into the superheated market there. Though the megagallery does not yet have a presence in the country, “all options are on the table,” according to Nick Simunovic, the Hong Kong–based senior director of Gagosian in Asia. Of Lee’s appointment, he noted, “We have been able to service Korean institutions and collectors from our base in Hong Kong for a long time, but we feel that the time is right to have somebody who is from Korea, speaks Korean, and is deeply embedded in the community there to further develop our activities in the region.”
Lee began her career at Seoul’s PKM gallery, spending seven years there before decamping to Esther Schipper. She recently worked as a director at Sprüth Magers, where she shepherded the gallery’s entry into the Korean art scene. As well, she has organized the first Asian exhibitions of the work of Andreas Gursky and Barbara Kruger for Seoul’s Amorepacific Museum of Art and in 2017 worked on Tomás Saraceno’s exhibition “Our Interplanetary Bodies” at the Asia Culture Center, Gwangju.
Gagosian’s hiring of Lee arrives just before the opening of the second iteration of Frieze Seoul, which runs September 6–9 in the city’s posh Gangnam district. In committing to the region, Gagosian joins White Cube, which in June announced its entry into Seoul, and Thaddeus Ropac, Peres Projects, Perrotin, and Pace, all of which have increased their presences there in the past year or so. Other institutions have begun to show interest as well, with Paris’s Centre Pompidou announcing earlier this year that it would open a satellite in Seoul.
“The collectors [here] are well-informed and opinionated,” explained Simunovic. “That’s exactly what galleries like Gagosian are hoping for.”