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January 18, 2022

Shinsegae buys stake in Seoul Auction to explore art, NFTs

PUBLISHED : December 31, 2021 - 16:10

UPDATED : December 31, 2021 - 16:10

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A curator works next to artwork displayed at Shinsegae Department Store’s “Blossom Art Fair” at its Myeong-dong branch in October. (The Korea Herald/Kang Jae-eun)

Shinsegae and Seoul Auction are teaming up to expand operations across fields in the arts, NFTs and metaverse, South Korea’s largest art auction house said Dec. 30.

The department store operator will purchase 28 billion won ($23.6 million) of new shares issued by Seoul Auction, according to a DART announcement posted by the two firms Wednesday. When the acquisition is finalized Jan. 6, Shinsegae will own a 4.82 percent stake in Seoul Auction. The firm is currently the largest art auction house in South Korea by the amount of bids closed, with an estimated 38 percent market share.

Shinsegae plans to use Seoul Auction’s vast network of renowned artists and collectors to expand its art selling business.

“We decided to invest in the company to stably source artworks and offer new art-related businesses to our customers,” a representative from the department store said.

Along with traditional art businesses, the two companies plan to further expand into new art markets, particularly into art nonfungible tokens, or NFTs, and the metaverse, which have recently gained in popularity among young investors.

Shinsegae and Seoul Auction said they will exchange technology and networks in NFTs and the metaverse, while securing intellectual property that can be distributed via the two platforms. Seoul Auction also plans to use spaces at Shinsegae Department Stores to market its NFT-enabled art. The two firms will also join efforts to grow Seoul Auction‘s online art marketplace, Blacklot.

With young collectors growing in South Korea, Shinsegae is upping efforts to strengthen its art business. The group reportedly strengthened its art gallery team consisting of professional art curators this year, while adding “art exhibition and sales” as one of its business areas in March. The group also opened a virtual art gallery called “Art Space” on its mobile app in June.

According to the Korea Art Price Appraise Association, 296.8 billion won in art was sold through auctions as of November this year, up 157.4 percent from the previous year.

By Kang Jae-eun (kang.jaeeun@heraldcorp.com)

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