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Department stores in Korea get artsy

Art is becoming a marketing tool for department stores in the pandemic era, as they host art exhibitions on their premises to attract shoppers who are increasingly interested in drawing as an indoor hobby.

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It is also becoming a means of investment, with the emergence of the non-fungible token (NFT), a form of digital asset that has enabled securitized digital art pieces to be bought, sold and traded.

In the offline marketplace, millennials and Gen Z are joining the older, wealthier generations as collectors, thanks to social media and other platforms that allow them to jointly purchase expensive pieces of art.

Lotte has become the latest major department store, joining Shinsegae, Hyundai and The Galleria, to host an art exhibition.

Titled “Art Lotte,” the exhibition opened on 29th June at Lotte’s two most profitable stores in Sogong-dong and Jamsil, both in Seoul. Some 60 featured works of contemporary Korean painters are up for sale.

“The exhibition and trade of artwork at department stores is not all about profit. It is about drawing wealthy customers who have a keen eye for art but also for luxury goods,” a Lotte Department Store public relations official said.

The official speculated art as a marketing tool may help shopping malls to win back customers who now spend more time than ever shopping online.

In its shareholders’ meetings in March, Shinsegae Department Store decided to add exhibitions, sales, rental and consulting services related to art as its new businesses.

The decision came after it opened a space in its southern Seoul branch for showcasing and selling art.

Hyundai Department Store is running a project titled “art museum” at its Pangyo branch in Seongnam, Gyeonggi Province, where more than 150 pieces from collections held outside of Korea were featured for sale in October 2020.

The participants included David Hockney, who is considered one of the most influential British artists of the 20th century, and Yoshitomo Nara, a Japanese artist whose works have been housed at the Museum of Modern Art in New York and the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles.

In cooperation with galleries here, The Galleria sold works of overseas artists in May and June.

“The marketing strategy appears to be right on track,” a retail industry expert said, noting customers tend to buy rare and pricy items offline while purchasing daily goods online.

With regard to online sales, millennials are considered the target market for NFTs because, despite being less wealthy than older generations, they are more highly educated and focus on personalized experiences, according to Art Piq, an online art information website.

“No surprise today’s 20- and 30 somethings have a natural affinity for art ― in all of its forms and definitions… Despite the huge variety and Instagram-worthy appeal of replicas and posters, the unique and experiential qualities of original art make it an interesting collectible and investment asset,” it said.

Calling millennial collectors “tech-savvy,” Bloomberg reported they have helped save the art market during the pandemic.

It pointed out among collectors 30 percent of high-net-worth millennials spent a minimum of US$1 million in 2020 on art, compared to 17 percent of high-net-worth baby boomers.

A 2019 report by The Art Market showed millennials spent US$100,000 or more buying art online, and 4 percent spent US$1 million doing so with Instagram being a link between emerging artists and millennials who collect art.

A separate report released by investment bank UBS showed 56 percent of 2,569 rich collectors around the world were millennials or Gen Z.

Those persons especially spent an average of US$228,000 to purchase art, and 30 percent of the millennial investors spent more than US$1 million.

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In its March auction, local auctioneer Seoul Auction sold 95 percent of 146 paintings, prints and sculptures worth a combined US$9.2 million.

Many bidders turned out to be in their 20s and 30s, the company stated.

(Source: The Korea Times)