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Curator Lawrence Van Hagen’s “What’s Up / Seoul” Exhibit at Designer Teo Yang’s Private Residence

Powerful pieces by Lee Ufan, Yoshitomo Nara, Yayoi Kusama and more accent a meticulously preserved hanok home

by David Graver

In the historic Bukchon neighborhood of Seoul, South Korea, acclaimed Korean designer Teo Yang, founder of Teoyang Studio, restored two traditional wooden hanok houses and unified them into one transportive residence and home studio. For Seoul Art Week 2023, this distinct site hosts the exemplary exhibition What’s Up / Seoul: 12 Masters by international curator and art advisor Lawrence Van Hagen. Amidst Yang’s impressive personal collection of art and design, Van Hagen nestles rarities of exceptional merit. From Korean artist Lee Ufan‘s mesmeric “Dialogue” (2014) painting to iconographic works by Jean-Michel Basquiat, Keith Haring and Andy Warhol, the global discourse between curation and destination epitomizes the cultural exchange of Seoul Art Week as a whole.

Courtesy of Luke Im

“There are 15 works by 12 renowned artists, sourced from various private collections around the world. It’s a selling exhibition set alongside pieces from Teo’s personal collection,” Van Hagen tells COOL HUNTING. “I thought it would be great to partner with someone who is young and in a similar field. I did this last year in Paris, during PARIS+, in the home of Benjamin Paulin, the son of designer Pierre Paulin. I focus on hosting exhibitions in homes because visitors have such a memorable experience and they can even envision the works we exhibit within their home.”

by David Graver

A contemplative spirit suffuses the home and studio. The slender footprint of almost all of the rooms orients the perspective points. Yang’s personal collection—which also includes an Ufan, works by Fornasetti, Luke Edward Hall, Elmgreen & Dragset, and KAWS, historic bronze vases, and furniture pieces of his own design—anchors wall space and punctuates corners. Van Hagen’s additions work in concert. “It’s about adding a little touch,” he says, noting a colorful Stanley Whitney perched on a shelf. The art advisor has also woven in moody works by Gerard Richter, Lucas Arruda and Giorgio Morandi.

by David Graver

Two sculptural additions—Alexander Calder’s “La lune” (1963) and John Chamberlain’s “Einmearname” (2009) —contribute surprise and delight. They’re also an apt contrast to the home’s more traditional pieces. “I curate by selecting a group of works that go very well together,” Van Hagen continues. “Then I get to the location and I find out what fits where. It’s always about less is more. And I want the work to look as if it has always been there.”

by David Graver

“I want guests to experience art in an intimate setting. I want them to feel at ease and to take their time,” Van Hagen says. In contrast to the frenetic energy and eager crowds of Frieze Seoul, Van Hagen has tapped into Yang’s serene space to allow guests—and art pieces—room to breathe.

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