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Meet Jungwon Lee

Director of FOCUS Art Fair and founder of HongLee Curator

Meet Jungwon Lee - illustration 1

A photo of the 2021 FOCUS Art Fair at Saatchi Gallery, London

Jungwon Lee is a curator and the founder of HongLee Curator, a growing organization that specializes in event management and the promotion of contemporary art. She is also the director of FOCUS Art Fair, a fair that focuses on emerging galleries and artists. For the Paris edition of FOCUS Art Fair this year, of which Artsper is the official partner, we had the opportunity to chat with Jungwon. Discover her inspiring journey and the upcoming trends in the art world!

1. Hello Jungwon! Can you tell us about your background and what led you to become an art fair director? Did you always want to work in the art world?

Since 2016, I have been working as an independent curator with five partner galleries in Paris. This has involved curating exhibitions of Asian artists and dealing with exhibition planning, installations and public relations. As of 2019, I have opened art agencies in Paris and London. As I am still working as an artist agency, my main interest is discovering and promoting young artists. My objective is to facilitate partnerships between our talented artists and collectors. That's why I created the international fair, which allows us to promote our artists and galleries in art hotspots such as Paris, London, New York, Seoul, and Shanghai.

I think that what makes us different from other fairs is our aim for joint growth with galleries and artists rather than becoming a famous art fair. We want to establish ourselves as a kind of hub that gives young artists around the world the chance to go to famous international art fairs and galleries.

2. FOCUS Art Fair is a young fair, which is already very successful internationally. What do you think visitors to the fair are looking for in 2022?

People who visit our fair tend to say that our event is always original and brings a youthfulness that differentiates it from other fairs.

FOCUS Art Fair focuses on the public. Each year we select a new concept and ask the public questions about it. This direct interaction with people could be the most memorable aspect for them. I think it is important to let them develop their own questions and find the answers while watching the show. I visited Tino Sehgal's exhibition at the Palais de Tokyo in 2016, and I think the experience of being immersed in the work as an audience member was very impressive. In my opinion, the most important part of the planning should not only be the interaction between the audience and the artist, but also between the audience and the work. The main reason I decided to propose a program where the audience and the artist can communicate is that I wanted to allow visitors the opportunity to stop and contemplate the artwork, and avoid just "passing by".

With this in mind, one of the key moments of our fair is the art show: it is aimed at young collectors and presents a more dynamic and trendy display, bringing a breath of fresh air to the traditional static exhibition viewing. It is an attempt to break the conventional stereotype that a work of art should only be hung on the wall.

Meet Jungwon Lee - illustration 1
Meet Jungwon Lee - illustration 1

Photos of the 2021 FOCUS Art Fair Artshow at Atelier Richelieu, Paris

3. Artsper is excited to collaborate with FOCUS Art Fair for its 2022 fair. Each iteration of the event focuses on a particular theme: what is the guideline this year?

FOCUS Art Fair 2022, held at the Carrousel du Louvre in Paris under the title "Art Boom," features NFT, AI, VR and metaverse sections, and collaborates with artists representing classic analog works under the theme of the coexistence of analog and digital. This will be an opportunity to give art-loving visitors some direction in the future of the art market.

4. What do you think is the biggest challenge in organizing a fair?

In my opinion, I see two main challenges and that are directly related to this year's event:

The first one is making the "internationality" work as it is so dear to us. An international fair means international artists and buyers, and this requires some adaptations such as developing online sales for works from the fair, which we are starting to develop this year thanks to our collaboration with Artsper.

A second challenge is the association of art and technology, such as our use of virtual reality headsets in partnership with Adler to allow an immersive experience, a real shock for some, hence the need for a transition as smooth and successful as possible.

5. What are your artistic inspirations ? Can you tell us about one (or more!) artist you particularly like?

I usually like the work of artists with a clear concept and identity. I often read the philosophy behind the artistic process and prefer a style with a strong narrative.

An example is the artist Lee.K: he works with a unique technique for portraits. There is a lot of precision, and the strong lines and colors seem to instill a remarkable vitality. In the case of a portrait of a person, once the mouth is erased, the focus shifts naturally to the eyes: the eyes are an important element, a vector of emotions that can even go as far as to make us shiver. The charm of his works lies in their ability to attract an audience's attention through their intense colors and the expressions of their subjects. In 2019, I had an exhibition with Lee.K at the FOLD Gallery in London for the first time. The artist already had a large international fan base at that time, hence the large number of British and American visitors. He is one of those artists whose future work I look forward to because he has already managed to develop a distinct style of painting.

We represent a wide variety of emerging as well as world-renowned artists, exploring various mediums such as painting (Florence Boré, Kim Keun-Tae, Chen Ching-Jung), sculpture (Julien Clar, Tatsuya Tanaka), digital and NFT art (Ellen Sheidlin, Ayoung Jo), and pop art (Leo & Steph) to name a few.

Meet Jungwon Lee - illustration 1
Meet Jungwon Lee - illustration 1

Photos of the 2021 FOCUS Art Fair Artshow at Saatchi Gallery, London

6. Are you a collector yourself? What advice would you give to a young art lover that would like to make a first step in the world of art collecting? Would you say that art fairs are a good way to discover art?

I am also active as a collector. However, being an exhibition organizer and an art collector are two strictly different positions. I became a collector when a fundamental question arose in my work as a curator: after selecting five works to offer to collectors, only two really caught their attention. Why? The best way to find the answer was to enter the world of collecting myself and not limit myself to the external view.

My advice to an aspiring collector would be to first find out who you are as a client, for example by asking yourself what kind of art you are interested in. I would also suggest imagining the room in which they wish to install their acquisition (the available surface area, the color of the walls...).

On this topic, during the third year of Focus Art Fair in 2021 in Paris, we proposed a "focus contest" that allowed the winner to acquire a work of art worth less than a thousand euros. The winner in question benefited from our support in choosing a work, hence the interest in coming to art fairs to talk to people in the business before making a choice.

When I visited art fairs and galleries as a collector, I looked at both what type of work I was interested in and how to buy it. Because of these visits, my interest in guiding young collectors naturally grew.

7. Finally, if you were to go to a desert island, what book would you take with you?

If I were to go to a desert island, I would definitely bring a cookbook for cooking with natural ingredients. But actually, a book on desert island survival might be a good option too. A less rational choice would be to take some stories from the Disney universe with me as there are so many stories about animals, which might help me get over my fears of wild beasts!


Their favorite artworks

Untitled # 915, Lee.K

Untitled # 915

Lee.K

Painting - 16.5 x 11.7 x 0.1 inch

Sold

This is an Illusion, Bowyi Song

This is an Illusion

Bowyi Song

Painting - 54.7 x 42.9 x 1.1 inch

$1,505

Rosie on sofa, Jihye Yoo

Rosie on sofa

Jihye Yoo

Painting - 23.6 x 28.6 inch

$1,606

Not friendly for copy / Celadon green_02, Ayoung JO

Not friendly for copy / Celadon green_02

Ayoung JO

Painting - 13.2 x 10.6 x 0.7 inch

$803

Season colors__Summer Autumn 2018, Soo Youn Kim

Season colors__Summer Autumn 2018

Soo Youn Kim

Painting - 19.7 x 19.7 x 1.6 inch

$1,294

Out of Nothing, Sarah Soh

Out of Nothing

Sarah Soh

Painting - 16.1 x 20.9 x 0.7 inch

$993