2023’s Top Art Exhibitions in South Korea and Across Asia – ARTnews.com


Last year may have been the year that Asia began to reopen as pandemic era border restrictions expired, but 2023 was when the region’s art scene here seemed to return fully to life. The Art SG fair in Singapore finally debuted in January, and Art Basel Hong Kong roared back in March with its first quarantine-free edition since 2019—2019! People were on the move again, at a rapid pace.

As a journalist based in Seoul, much of my year-end top ten, which follows below, comes from South Korea, but I am grateful to have finally been able to bounce around the region a fair amount this year with ease.

The best art I saw was on a visit to Kyoto this summer, when, coincidentally, the millennium-old Gion Matsuri festival was taking place with full pageantry, after scaled-back versions during the pandemic. Towering floats—fantasias of ornate architecture, some adorned with sumptuous tapestries—crawled through the streets, pulled by relentless teams of volunteers. It was captivating. However, as an annual event, that glorious affair is not eligible for this list, which is reserved solely for temporary exhibitions that were on view in 2023.

Before revealing my top ten, I have to note a few remarkable shows that did not make the list: feminist artist’s Yun Suk Nam’s captivating portraits of women who fought for Korean independence (plus more than 1,000 painted sculptures of dogs) at the Daegu Art Museum in South Korea; the essential “Only the Young: Experimental Art in Korea, 1960s–1970s” at the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art (MMCA), Seoul (and at the Guggenheim for a couple more weeks!); a revelatory survey of painter Guei-Hong Won (1923–1980), a chronicler of postwar daily life in Seoul, at the Sungkok Museum in Seoul; the excellent Yooyun Yang’s presentation of her latest cinematic, mysterious paintings at Primary Practice; Wang Tuo’s time-bending video treatises on Chinese history and censorship at Blindspot in Hong Kong; Rirkrit Tiravanija’s piquantly odd umbrella-repair shop and robots at David Zwirner in Hong Kong; the MMCA’s richly rewarding retrospective for the beloved painter Chang Ucchin (1917–1990) at its Deoksugung branch in Seoul; and Do Ho Suh’s invigorating, interactive installation at the Seoul Museum of Art’s Buk-Seoul location, which invited children to take brightly colored clay and keep adding, and adding, and adding to it.

Without further ado, my top ten:

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