Tina Kim

Tina Kim

What did you know about art dealing when you opened your first gallery?

I opened my gallery in 2002. By then I had earned my master’s degree in arts administration from New York University and a certificate from the Christie’s program in the history of the art market. And I had been an exhibition coordinator for my family’s gallery [Kukje Gallery in Seoul] before getting my first job as director of the Barbara Mathes Gallery, in New York, where I learned about the workings of the secondary-art and auction markets and participated in major art fairs.

How did you decide to open a gallery?

When I began my career, I wanted to experience as many different sides of the art world as possible, so I interned at Paula Cooper, in the contemporary art department at Sotheby’s, and at the New Museum of Contemporary Art. In the end I decided that what I enjoyed most was putting together exhibitions with artists, so opening a gallery made perfect sense for me.

Was art part of your life growing up?

Art has always been a huge part of my life. My parents were collectors with diverse tastes, ranging from fine art to antiquities to scholar’s rocks. Observing them was an early education in art for me.

What do you collect now?

I started collecting contemporary art after I got married — my husband and I began giving each other works of art as anniversary and birthday gifts.

What is the greatest challenge in running a major gallery today, and how do you deal with it?

Keeping up with the sheer scale of the contemporary-art world. You have to absorb so much information to do your job well, and do so much traveling. The market is always expanding, so there is a constant need to stay alert.

You have traveled all over in pursuit of art, artists, and clients. What was a particularly memorable experience?

One of the most interesting episodes actually happened recently, when I visited Naoshima Island, in Japan. It took a solid day of travel to get there and another to get back, but it was completely worth it. The Lee Ufan museum there, a site-specific collaboration between Tadao Ando and the artist, was truly inspiring. Lee Ufan’s work was spectacularly presented, of course, but beyond that the museum and the island show how a museum can enrich a local community.

What was your most memorable art deal, and why is it important to you?

The most memorable deal of my career so far was the sale of a spectacular Bill Viola installation. I’d first seen the piece, The Veiling, when Bill represented the United States in the 1995 Venice Biennale. Later I had a chance to see his retrospective at the Whitney, and I so much wanted to work with him, but it took almost five years to convince him to do a show in Korea with us. It is amazing to me that the installation I’d first seen in Venice found a home at a major museum in Korea, after years of hard work.

If you were not an art dealer, what would you be doing?

I would probably be on the other side, as an art collector. I am interested in working with an architect to build a space in which to install a collection, as I believe that art is a total experience.

What’s happening now at the gallery that you’re excited about?

We’re presenting the New York solo debut of installation artist Gimhongsok, who was part of a recent survey of Korean artists at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

"Tina Kim" originally appeared in the September 2010 issue of Art+Auction. For a complete list of articles from this issue available on ARTINFO, see Art+Auctions's September 2010 Table of Contents.