Interview with Tom Woo, Founder and Director of HADA Contemporary

HADA Contemporary is the first East Asian art gallery on Vyner Street, London. Representing a number of stunning artists, the gallery cultivates a conversation between art in the East and the West. Founder and director Tom Woo seeks to recognise the rich history of art from East Asia with an emphasis on Korea, showcasing both established and emerging artists. Aesthetica speaks to Woo about his selection of practitioners and his future plans for the gallery.

A: HADA Contemporary is an East Asian Gallery in London, what is unique about East Asian art?
TW: The dynamic modern and contemporary history of East Asia is the key to understand the arts from the area. Each country has been modernised through different stages of political and social development. This can be observed especially in the case of South Korea since the Korean War, such as the regime of military power men, democratisation, and economic success. The arts inevitably reflect these stages and result in an unpredictable scale ranging from Western influences to adaptations with indigenous sentiment that bears one of the longest civilisation. HADA Contemporary endeavours to keep introducing art from East Asia and provide the platform for discourse.

A: When selecting new artists what do you look out for?
We are fortunate to have relatively early and intimate access to the artists from the region. When selecting artists, our main interest relies on how artists present their thoughts and feelings in a global language effectively, but still convey an insight into East Asian sentiments.

A: Are there any emerging artists coming out for Korea that we should be aware of?
South Korea’s major private and public institutions have been playing a pivotal role in selecting and nurturing upcoming talents, as well as compiling the art and artists’ movements of the past from the 20th century onwards. This system has become mature and is run by new generations through distinguished channels such as Spectrum by Leeum; New Vision, New Voices, and the Korea Artist Prize by the National Museum of Contemporary Art in Korea. We are directly and indirectly collaborating with these networks. Specific artists, if I am to name them, include Kim Minae, Koo Donghee, Ham Jin, Noh Suntag, Ahn Jinkyun, Je Baak, Chung Heesung and many more to follow.

A: What exhibitions do you have coming up?
TW: In December, we are very excited to be presenting all new works by Ham Jin for his first UK solo exhibition who has been invited to exhibit at internationally renowned institutions and biennials such as 51st Venice Biennale, 4th Gwangju Biennale, 4th Guangzhou Triennial, Mori Art Museum and Minsheng Art Museum among others. Also, we are programming series of exhibitions for 2015 and 2016 with some of the artists who are already mentioned above.

A: Where would you like to see the gallery in 10 years time?
TW: Our gallery’s prime ambition is to be a platform to stimulate the artists’ creativity and to build relationships with audiences such as public institutions and private collectors in Europe. London is a perfect place to realise this. In addition, we plan to locate our second venue in East Asia to be able to invite artists from the West and introduce them to East Asian audiences as well as collaborate with artists from the region. Although the world nowadays is virtually connected through the internet, the effort of direct personal encounter still is and will be essential in the future.

To find out more about HADA Contemporay, visit

1. Kim Minae, Thoughts on habit, courtesy of the artist and HADA Contemporary.