Iconic Space building acquired by art gallery

November 26, 2013

By Kwon Mee-yoo

The Space Group building in central Seoul / Yonhap

The Space Group building in central Seoul (Yonhap)

After months of anticipation, the Arario Gallery stepped up to be the new owner of Seoul’s Space Group building, considered a modern architectural gem in a city that doesn’t have enough of them.

The small building near Changdeok Palace in Gye-dong, built in 1971 and distinctive for its use of glass, black bricks, and the blanket of ivy that covers it, is a work of the late Kim Swoo-geun (1931-1986), who remains arguably Korea’s most internationally recognized architect. The building was put on the market early this year after the Space Group, an architectural firm Kim founded in 1960, sank deeper into financial troubles.

Companies like Hyundai Heavy Industries and Internet giant Naver had expressed interest to buy the building, but later withdrew after failing to agree on the asking price.

Kim Chang-il, owner of the Arario Gallery and a millionaire art collector, said he plans to turn the Space Group building into a contemporary art museum. Kim is the only Korean art collector who made it on ARTnews’ list of the top 200 art collectors of the world. He is also an artist who presents creations under the name of CI Kim.

”Arario has been one of the country’s leading art galleries and the newly acquired Space Group building will be one of our key new museums, along with our other museum planned in Jeju Island,’’ Henna Joo, executive director of Arario Gallery, told The Korea Times.

Joo said Kim’s decision to purchase the building came as a surprise, even to Arario’s insiders.

”That’s his style. He may have thought about this for a long time, but he told us about the decision just a few days ago,’’ Joo said.

”The building and the architect’s atelier will remain intact. Our intention is to preserve the building as a cultural space, maintaining the historical context of the building, which is one of the great samples of Korean modern architecture.’’

The Arario Gallery, based in the mid-west city of Cheonan, is one of the country’s most influential art galleries and it also has a branch in Cheongdam-dong, the affluent residential district in southern Seoul. Kim’s collection includes the works of iconic artists like Demian Hirst, Marc Quinn and Sigma Polke.

The new museum at the Space Group building will open in September next year, Joo said. The inaugural exhibition will feature the works of Kim, the late architect.

The Cultural Heritage Administration said earlier this month that it will designate the Space Group building as a cultural heritage and the registration is not expected to be affected by the change in ownership

One Comment

  1. Rucy

    November 26, 2013 at 10:34 AM

    One of my favorite artists is Kim, Swoo-geun. He is great! I’ve been to the building “Space” once, the design of inside is very unique and cozy.. very small space though.