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Life & Arts

Art auction sales in Korea soar to highest point since 2008 financial crisis

The art market in Korea is drawing art lovers as well as investors looking for extra investment opportunities

By Jun 23, 2021 (Gmt+09:00)

(Courtesy of Seoul Auction)
(Courtesy of Seoul Auction)

South Korea’s art market is facing the biggest boom since the global financial crisis, drawing wealthy investors and art enthusiasts alike.

Seoul Auction, the country’s oldest art auction house founded in 1998, sold 24.3 billion won ($21.4 million) worth of art in its latest auction held on June 22, setting the highest sales figure in Korea since the 2008 financial crisis.

“The figure was higher than our estimate at 23 billion won ($20.2 million). Such a high number means that art entered a new bull market with more investors and art lovers chasing after the best pieces of work in the country,” said a Seoul Auction representative.

Some 87% of the artworks presented at yesterday’s auction were sold, the auction house added. 

AUCTIONED ARTWORKS

The auction sold a wide range of artworks from modern art pieces by domestic artists and traditional Korean paintings to abstract pieces by overseas artists.

The Korean minimalist painter and sculptor Lee Ufan’s From Point, a pair of paintings arranged next to each other, was sold at 2.2 billion won ($1.9 million), the highest among all artworks created by Lee.

▲ Lee Ufan’s From Point (1975)
▲ Lee Ufan’s From Point (1975)

Kim Whan-ki’s 27-XI-71 #211 made 3.05 billion won ($2.7 million), the highest amount among the work auctioned at yesterday’s event. Kim is regarded as the pioneer of abstract painting in Korea.

▲ Kim Whan-ki’s 27-XI-71 #211 (1975) (Courtesy of Whanki Foundation)
▲ Kim Whan-ki’s 27-XI-71 #211 (1975) (Courtesy of Whanki Foundation)

Among the works by international artists, Yayoi Kusama’s Silver Nets (BTRUX) reached the price of 2.9 billion won ($2.6 million), rising fast from its starting price at 1.8 billion won ($1.6 million).

▲ Yayoi Kusama’s Silver Nets (BTRUX) (2014)
▲ Yayoi Kusama’s Silver Nets (BTRUX) (2014)

Traditional paintings also proved popular. In particular, Joseon-era painter Jeong Seon’s Dongjak-jin was auctioned off at 4.4 billion won ($3.9 million), almost three times its initial bidding price at 1.5 billion won ($1.3 million). The price marks the highest figure among Jeong’s famous real-view landscape paintings.

▲ Jeong Seon’s Dongjak-jin (1744)
▲ Jeong Seon’s Dongjak-jin (1744)

Jeong Seon is the painter of Inwangjesaekdo, South Korea’s 216th national treasure that is included in the art collection donated by the Samsung heirs to the country’s public museums.

Write to Soo-young Seong at syoung@hankyung.com

Daniel Cho edited this article.

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