Four Emerging Art Cities You Should Know

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Bogotá, Budapest, Johannesburg and Seoul are increasingly making their presence known on the global arts scene.

Updated Oct. 9, 2014 8:25 p.m. ET

Illustration by Yann Legendre

ART LOVERS VISITING Paris’s FIAC and Frieze in London this month will notice that galleries from some unfamiliar cities (at least in art-market terms) have begun to occupy not just the subsidized booths for fledgling dealers but also the pricier spaces near established heavyweights, such as David Zwirner and Hauser & Wirth.

Some of these cities may be ancient cultural capitals, but their appearance on the global art stage is something new. And their galleries are not only promoting growing local art scenes but also beginning to deal top-notch works by major Western artists, like Seoul’s Kukje Gallery, which is bringing a 1966 Alexander Calder mobile, “Over the Long Black Tail,” to FIAC.

Here, we look at four art cities that are increasingly making their presence known in the global arena.

Ana Adarve’s ‘Via Monterrey’ (2012) at Galería El Museo Ana Adarve / Galerie El Museo

BOGOTÁ, COLOMBIA

A decade ago, the Colombian capital was known primarily for two things: the violence unleashed by cocaine kingpin Pablo Escobar in the 1990s and the painter Fernando Botero, the popular portraitist of uniformly obese middle-aged revelers.

But Bogotá’s art scene has taken off in the past few years as a network of art dealers and art spaces has been cultivating rising stars whose pieces represent a forward-thinking mind-set, while also promoting the works of older artists who tend toward confronting the country’s history of violence.

“The younger generations don’t as overtly address the issues of violence for which Colombia is known,” says Paula Bossa, international director of Galería Casas Riegner. Her gallery represents the godfather of Colombian art, Miguel Ángel Rojas, but she has also promoted artists in their 30s such as Bogotá-born Icaro Zorbar, whose mixed-media works deal with apolitical topics like obsolete technology.

Colombia’s main annual art event, the Artbo fair ( artboonline.com ), is now in its eighth season. Running Oct. 24-27, it features 66 exhibitors culled from 150 applicants, including several from Europe and the U.S. One of the participants, Galería El Museo, represents Mr. Botero but also fresh faces including photographers Adriana Duque, with her haunting photographs of children, and Ana Adarve.

BUDAPEST, HUNGARY

When painter Alexander Tinei moved to Budapest in 2000, the city had only slightly more cultural opportunities than his home country of Moldova. In other words, “next to none,” he says. Now at 46, Mr. Tinei’s career is starting to take off. At a recent London show of rising Eastern Europeans curated by Sotheby’s, BID +0.03% two of his works sold for €4,000. A modest price, perhaps, for a middle-aged artist at a major auction house, but it shows that Budapest is becoming more visible.

“It is slow but sure,” says Annamária Molnár, owner of Molnár Ani Galéria and former president of the Association of Hungarian Contemporary Art Galleries, a grass-roots organization created to support the country’s galleries. “Artists living and staying in Budapest’s cultural scene are gaining international attention.”

Most midsize cities have public galleries and museums that promote local artists, but the curators of those institutions in Hungary are influenced by the government’s desire to steer clear of politicized art. It’s in private galleries, instead, where you’ll find more experimental artists like Lajos Csontó, a native of Budapest whose work, which combines photography and digital media with traditional printmaking, is on show at the MOM Park shopping center until April 1.

And for more exposure, galleries look to festivals such as the Budapest Contemporary Art Festival (Oct. 3-19; cafebudapestfest.hu ), Art Market Budapest (Oct. 9-12;artmarketbudapest.hu ) and Gallery Weekend Budapest, held annually in mid-September ( galleryweekendbudapest.com ).

JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA

When Johannesburg held its second Biennale in 1997, it kindled hopes that the city would become Africa’s cultural hub. “Postapartheid South Africa was exiting a cultural isolation,” recalls Zoe Whitley, curator of international art at Tate Modern in London. A third biennale never materialized, but in the past decade Johannesburgers have banded together to develop events like the Turbine Art Fair and Joburg Art Fair to promote an ever-more-vibrant local art scene—and they’re gaining momentum. Among the 10,000 visitors to this year’s Joburg Art Fair were curators from the Tate and Paris’s Centre Pompidou. Ms. Whitley says both have actively scouted Johannesburg-based artists such as Zanele Muholi and Nicholas Hlobo.

Part of the Johannesburg’s success lies in acknowledging its reputation for danger, often with wry humor. In Maboneng, an eastern precinct once littered with deserted factory buildings, property developer Jonathan Liebmann has created a lively cultural center that includes GoetheonMain, an upscale gallery space funded by the Goethe Institut, as well as a project area cheekily titled “Iwasshot in Joburg :),” displaying photographs taken with disposable cameras by local street children.

To help retain the city’s artistic talent, galleries have been hosting shows of major African artists abroad and promoting themselves as places where Western artists can safely show their work in Africa. The Goodman Gallery is a good example; Opened in 1966, it is currently coordinating with the (unrelated) Marian Goodman Gallery in Paris on a show of South African artist David Goldblatt (until Oct. 18; mariangoodman.com ), and recently held the first African show of American artist Liza Lou.

SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA

For half a century after the Korean War, art enthusiasts in Seoul concentrated on learning about “textbook” Western artists such as Monet. But with the dawn of the 21st century, spaces and communes such as Alternative Gallery Loop, Art Space Jungmiso and Doosan Gallery cropped up to support a new generation of artists.

As younger artists such as Jeamin Cha, currently on display at Doosan Gallery (until Nov. 8; doosangallery.com ), grow in prominence, interest has also revived in older abstract artists, such as Ha Chong Hyun and Park Seo-bo, who came of age during the war, creating works independent of Western influence. Still active, these men laid the groundwork for Seoul’s recent emergence into the edgy art world, now with corporate backers. Last year, octogenarian abstract artist Seung-taek Lee received the government’s Eungwan Order of Cultural Merit, as well as being honored by car maker Hyundai with an award and a gallery show. Hyundai has also begun promoting Seoul’s artists abroad, most recently by helping Tate Modern acquire nine works by the late Nam June Paik.

Seoul’s contemporary museums are developing pristine new facilities to bring these generations together: The National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art opened its new facility in central Seoul last November, and has exhibited native artists such as Jung Ki Beak and Jae Young Park, both born in the 1980s and featured in the museum’s current site-specific multimedia show (until Jan. 18; moca.go.kr ). Even collectors are becoming bolder. Multimillionaire Kim Chang-il opened his Arario Museum in Space in September, featuring 200 works in the building he purchased for $15 million.

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