Seoul Art Essentials

Whether you’re exploring the Seoul art scene for the first time or just need a refresher on the best museums and galleries, our Essentials list gives you a focused overview on what to see. Our list is based on the history of the institution, the consistent quality of exhibitions, and the inspiring nature of the architecture. Or in more casual terms — whenever our friends ask us where we would visit for art, we send them this list. These spots are dotted all over town, so they’re also listed in priority order of what we would see first.

You can view this list as what to see anytime, but if you’re looking for a list of specific exhibitions to see right now, we’ve got that too! Head over to our Seoul Exhibition Guide here. Otherwise, we hope you enjoy exploring our favorite art spots that Seoul has to offer.

Updated July 2022

Leeum Museum | ArtDrunk Seoul Art Essentials

Leeum Museum of Art

We’re just going to say it: this is the top art museum in Korea. Leeum is made up of three buildings, each of which is designed by a renowned architect (Mario Botta, Jean Nouvel, and Rem Koolhaas). One wing houses their collection of traditional Korean art. Another wing houses their collection of Modern and Contemporary art. And the last wing features temporary exhibitions. From historical celadon-glazed ceramics to contemporary masters like Basquiat and Bourgeois, the museum features a comprehensive collection that is sure to engage every visitor. For art-selfie-seekers, Olafur Eliasson and Anish Kapoor both have mirrored works regularly on display.

Finally, Leeum is as centrally located as can be — giving you no excuse not to visit. Especially if this is your first visit to Seoul, it’s a great intro to what we love so much about the art scene here: a curated balance between Eastern and Western art.

Admission is free for the permanent collections. Tickets for temporary exhibitions typically cost ₩10,000-15,000 (about $10).

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MMCA Seoul | ArtDrunk Seoul Art Essentials

National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art (MMCA Seoul)

MMCA Seoul, one of four MMCA branches in Korea, has a special focus on global contemporary art. Situated in Samcheong-dong, the museum anchors the neighborhood’s art scene, where you’ll also find tens of commercial art galleries. Beyond presenting major exhibitions by artists like Park Seo-bo, Haegue Yang, and Jenny Holzer, it is also home to the “Seoul Box”: an incredible indoor plaza designed specifically for large-scale (and we mean massive) installations. Navigating the architecture is an adventure in and of itself, as the exhibitions often take over multiple levels, taking you through the cavernous depths of the museum.

Admission is ₩4,000 (about $3.50), but they offer free admission for several demographics and on certain dates and times, which you can find out more in the link below.  

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Amorepacific Museum of Art (APMA)

As soon as you step into Amorepacific’s HQ and museum designed by David Chipperfield, you’ll get why their motto is “A More Beautiful World”. (Also worth noting for those of you who aren’t familiar, Amorepacific is one of the largest cosmetics companies in Korea). The museum itself is located in the basement level, but don’t let that fool you. The 5+ meter high ceilings give even the largest of artworks space to breathe. Typically APMA rotates between shows of their own collection (featuring both contemporary art and traditional Korean works) and major solo exhibitions of Western artists (recently they’ve shown Andreas Gurksy, Mary Corse, and Barbara Kruger). If you happen to walk by when the museum has already closed for the day, stick around for the evening and you’ll be treated to a light show by Leo Villareal

Admission varies from exhibition to exhibition, but typically ranges between ₩10,000-15,000 (about $10). Unfortunately if you’re just in town for Frieze Seoul, APMA does not have an exhibition on view at that time. 

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Kukje Gallery | ArtDrunk Seoul Art Essentials

Kukje Gallery

Literally translated as “international gallery”, Kukje is the biggest player in Korea’s commercial gallery scene. They also have a location in Busan (a large port city in the south), but in Seoul you’ll find three main exhibition spaces, which they call K1, K2, and K3. Their shows feature major global and Korean contemporary artists, such as Ugo Rondinone, Yoo Youngkuk, and Robert Mapplethorpe. One of the main attractions is actually K3 itself, which is a standalone building wrapped in chainmail. Recently, Kukje also opened a hanok exhibition space adjacent to the others. If you’re looking for a bite to eat, they have a more casual cafe (albeit not cheap) as well as a fine-dining restaurant all on site. The restaurant was designed by Teo Yang, who is well-known for his modern aesthetic that still preserves Korean tradition. 

Free admission.

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Pace Gallery

As one of the first international galleries to open in Seoul, Pace has steadily expanded into its current space located just down the road from Leeum. Long one of the mega galleries (with locations in New York, London, Hong Kong, and more), Pace occupies three floors, one of which showcases digital and experiential art. Recent exhibitions have included Alexander Calder, Loie Hollowell, and Sam Gilliam. In September, they’ll be inaugurating their outdoor courtyard, which will host installations and sculpture, plus a teahouse that will also sell art books and editions. Few things we love more than seeing art and then immediately relaxing with a cold cocktail, without even having to leave the building.

Free admission.

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SongEun Art Space | ArtDrunk Seoul Art Essentials

SongEun Art Space

Although SongEun has been around for over 30 years, the museum experience feels entirely new and fresh since moving to their current location. Designed by Herzog & de Meuron, the triangular, monolithic, concrete building is a stark contrast to the architecture of Gangnam’s busiest street. Several of the interior spaces are designed with floor-to-ceiling windows and seating that encourages you to relax. The underground parking lot is a marvel as well – the ceiling and walls are lined entirely in silver leaf. SongEun is best known for its annual Art Award which supports Korean contemporary artists with both group and solo exhibitions.

Free admission.

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Museum SAN | ArtDrunk Seoul Art Essentials

Museum SAN

Alright, this one’s a bit outside of Seoul, but we promise visiting Museum SAN is worth the 1-2 hour drive. Museum SAN, which stands for “Space Art Nature”, is a serene escape tucked into the mountains of Wonju. Designed by architect Tadao Ando, the museum features large-scale installations, many of which are integrated into the outdoor environment. If you’re a fan of James Turrell, you’ll love experiencing the five works permanently installed. They also have temporary exhibitions that often pull from the museum’s own collection. And if the nature and minimalist architecture has you in a meditative mood, you can pop into their Meditation Hall where they hold regular sessions throughout the day. 

Admission ranges from ₩25,000-40,000 (about $20-$30) to access the whole museum (including the James Turrell works and Meditation Hall, which are an additional charge).

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