Yoo Youngkuk, Work, 1974 oil on canvas, 106 cm × 106 cm

Yoo Youngkuk, Work, 1974 ©️ Yoo Youngkuk Art Foundation


Pace Welcomes Yoo Youngkuk

Published Tuesday, Mar 14, 2023

Pace Gallery and PKM Gallery are honored to announce joint representation of the Yoo Youngkuk estate. Working in close collaboration to build upon the artist’s established legacy, the Seoul-based PKM Gallery will represent the estate in Korea and Pace will represent the estate on an international basis. Both galleries will have their debut presentation of the artist on their respective booths at Art Basel Hong Kong. Pace will stage Yoo’s first solo exhibition outside of Korea at its flagship gallery in New York in fall 2023.

Throughout his nearly seven-decade career, Yoo Youngkuk (1916-2002) founded several vital artistic groups in Japan and Korea that blazed a trail for generations of avant-garde artists. A pioneer of geometric abstract painting, his distinctive visual lexicon is characterized by bold color fields and an expressive application of paint. At the core of Yoo’s practice is a steadfast and passionate engagement with the distillation of painterly forms as a means of investigating his deeply personal relationship to nature.

As a young man, becoming a painter represented a kind of freedom for Yoo. It opened the door to communities of like-minded artists and offered an outlet for his rich inner world. Experimenting with an array of materials and techniques, including wood relief, photography, and painting, early influences of Russian Constructivism, Suprematism, and Neo-Plasticism are keenly felt in Yoo’s work. Regardless of the material, the artist’s use of color, form, and space expertly captured the brilliance and majesty of nature while maintaining a distinctly abstract sensibility.

Yoo Youngkuk_Portrait

Portrait of Yoo Youngkuk, 1980s ©️ Yoo Youngkuk Art Foundation

Yoo’s life was punctuated by multiple historic upheavals, including World War II and the Korean War. These periods of crisis enforced relocation and prolonged breaks from painting, but only strengthened Yoo’s commitment to his artistic practice. His unwavering dedication garnered significant critical engagement and several major institutional exhibitions across Korea. Against the fragility of daily life caused by the turmoil of global conflict, mountains became a signature motif in the artist’s paintings, serving as symbols of stability and endurance.

Art historian and curator Dr. Gabriel Ritter explained, “For Yoo, the rocky summit of Mount Seoraksan and the tree-covered Taebaek mountain range were to become the embodiment of nature and Korea itself, and a constant theme he would return to again and again in varying forms of abstraction. The grandeur of these mountains and their intimate connection with his hometown of Uljin, were no doubt a source of awe and inspiration for the artist but also helped to ground his continued experimentation with abstraction and colour, in equal parts personal experience and the natural world.”

Pace’s representation of the Yoo Youngkuk estate aligns with both its long history of supporting abstract and minimalist painters, such as Agnes Martin and Mark Rothko, and its long-standing championing of Korean artists, including Lee Ufan and Lee Kun-Yong. This representation follows the significant expansion of Pace’s arts complex in Seoul last year which marked a major moment in the gallery’s history, underscoring Pace’s commitment to this new period of growth in the Korean capital.

Marc Glimcher, CEO of Pace Gallery, says:

“We're thrilled to work with PKM Gallery to bring Yoo Youngkuk’s extraordinary practice to our international audiences. Yoo began cultivating his revolutionary approach to abstraction in the 1930s, and his influential role in shaping modern and contemporary art in Korea cannot be overstated. It is a privilege to represent Yoo's legacy as part of our program, and we look forward to mounting the artist's first solo exhibition outside of Korea at our New York gallery in 2023."

Kyung-mee Park, President of PKM Gallery, says:

“The international collaboration between the two galleries will create great synergy in re-evaluating the first abstract artist of Korea, Yoo Youngkuk, from the perspective of art history and informing his unique aesthetic achievements to the world. We anticipate Yoo’s works will be more actively introduced in various museums and institutions around the world in the future.”

To learn more about Yoo Youngkuk, click here.
  • News — Yoo Youngkuk Joins Pace Gallery, Mar 14, 2023