Leonardo, a 5-year-old artist from Spain, exhibits at KIAF SEOUL 2019
Written by John Kim | Published. 2020.01.31 15:48 | Count : 740

The 18th Korea International Art Fair (KIAF) was held from September 24th to 27th, 2019, at COEX Hall. Held annually since 2002, KIAF is one of the top-rated art fairs in Asia that feature both globally acclaimed artists and rising talents. This year, more than 200 galleries and artists participated to showcase of their work.

[KIAF SEOUL 2019. Photo by John Kim]

Among them was Leonardo Pastrana (Leonardo), a five-year-old artist from Spain. According to his parents, Leonardo began to draw in the closets of his house when he was only two-and-a-half years old. His parents then placed a large canvas, brushes and paint in his room so that he could express himself more freely. Through his parents’ support, the young boy could use his unlimited imagination to portray his inner world to the public. Moreover, his sophisticated use of colors, ability to combine seemingly independent objects, and unprejudiced, pure view of society made him famous among the other featured young artists. 

[Leonardo’s paintings exhibited at the KIAF 2019. Photo by John Kim]

Leonardo was invited by Elaine Choi, a junior at Seoul International School, who instantly fell in love with the young artist when she came across his account on Instagram. She recalled, “I found out about Leonardo through Instagram. I saw his artwork as I was scrolling through my feed, and I clicked on the post. On his account, I saw a young kid creating elaborate and fun artwork, which really caught my attention.”

Choi then contacted Leonardo’s family via direct message and invited them to exhibit his works at KIAF SEOUL 2019, a request they enthusiastically accepted. An aspiring artist herself, Choi believes what makes Leonardo’s artwork stand out are “his use of colors and Basquiat-like style,” both of which demonstrate his creative and whimsical style. 

[Interviewing Elaine Choi. Photo by John Kim]

Throughout all four days of KIAF, Leonardo’s booth was highly visited. When asked about the viewers’ responses, Elaine remarked, “Many people loved Leonardo’s paintings. They loved the color and the fun drawings that Leonardo had produced. Also, many were surprised when they heard he is only five years old.” Even before the art fair opened to the public, his paintings were sold at prices between 3000 and 5000 USD, with prints of these paintings sold at between 200 to 400 USD.

For now, Leonardo’s parents do not have any specific plans for his future: they simply want their child to keep on drawing and painting whatever he wants. They said they would like to continue to participate in events like KIAF in order to support him in publicizing his creative and artistic side. His artistic success offers an important lesson for Korean society. From the very early age, Korean students who wish to pursue art as a carrier learn advanced drawing techniques without enough time for imagination, which results in many student works not considered as creative. While Leonardo’s parents gave him time to be creative and develop his own artistic style. Art is not about how well people draw but is about showing different perspectives of the world they live in.

Leonardo has returned to Spain, but his works are still being exhibited in galleries around Seoul. Choi said she is “still in contact with Leonardo and [hopes] to open more opportunities for him to display his artistic abilities to people all over the world.” His works are on display at Alleyway Gwangyo in Suwon until January 31, 2020.


John Kim
Junior (Grade 11)
Seoul Scholars International

John Kim  student_reporter@dherald.com

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