6 Korean Artists Headline Latest K Auction Sale

James Ardis
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K Auction’s Modern and Contemporary Art sale will feature works from around the world. That includes pieces by two emerging Japanese artists: Ayako Rokkaku and TIDE. It will also feature works by some of the most recognizable names in 20th-century art, such as Andy Warhol and Pablo Picasso. In addition to many international offerings, K Auction’s latest sale will also be a valuable opportunity for collectors to learn about and bid on pieces by notable Korean artists.  

Which of these artists should collectors keep an eye on? Auction Daily takes a look at six renowned and emerging Korean artists represented in this sale.

From Line by Lee UFan. Photo from K Auction.
From Line by Lee UFan. Photo from K Auction.

Lee UFan

Despite going through several distinct phases, what generally unites Lee UFan’s artwork is an exploration of the relationship between the painter and canvas. He engages in mindful breathing while painting, using that tranquility to guide his brushstrokes. Lee allows a varying amount of spontaneity in his paintings but also searches for forms and patterns. 

His pieces from the 1970s, including the From Line series, are minimalist works. An example of the From Line series is available in this auction (lot #41, estimate: USD 340,000 – $540,000). The viewer can see individual lines where Lee placed his brush and let it slide down until he was satisfied with it petering out. Each line fades at a different point but, together, they form a cohesive whole. 

With Winds by Lee UFan. Photo from K Auction.
With Winds by Lee UFan. Photo from K Auction.

Lee’s later efforts, such as the With Winds series, allowed for more spontaneity. That includes an example on offer in the K Auction sale (lot #43, estimate: $1 million – $1.2 million). Despite a more chaotic composition, viewers will still notice Lee searching for patterns. Darker strokes cluster together around the painting’s edges, while lighter ones tend to bundle in the middle. 

Kwon DaeSup

Kwon DaeSup creates jars inspired by traditional Korean examples from the Joseon dynasty. What distinguishes Kwon’s work is not only its loyalty to classic examples but also the modern polish he adds to them. His jars have many contemporary patrons, including RM, the leader of the boy band BTS. The singer made his support known in 2019 via tweet with a picture of the Kwon jar in his collection. 

BTS lead singer RM with his Kwon DaeSup jar. Photo from Koreaboo.
BTS lead singer RM with his Kwon DaeSup jar. Photo from Koreaboo.

Bidders interested in also owning a Kwon DaeSup moon jar will find an example in the K Auction sale (lot #49, estimate: $23,000 – $36,000). He produces only a handful of jars each year, destroying pieces that don’t meet his high standards. “If [a jar] can’t move my heart,  I break it down,”  Kwon explained.

Kim WhanKi

Kim WhanKi’s journey to becoming an artist began by sneaking on a ship to Japan. He was heading to an art school in the country against his father’s wishes. Eventually, this journey would see Kim become one of the most celebrated Korean artists of the 20th century and the country’s leader in abstract art. 

Les Figures by Kim WhanKi. Photo from K Auction.
Les Figures by Kim WhanKi. Photo from K Auction.

Kim lived in many places throughout his life, including Tokyo, Paris, and New York. Still, Korean landscapes would always be his inspiration. “There’s beauty in my art, and this beauty comes from having lived in the Korean countryside,” said Kim

Collectors interested in Kim WhanKi’s work will have several examples to choose from in this sale. Among the highlights are Les Figures (lot #36, estimate: $720,000 – $1.4 million) and Two Moons (lot #20, estimate: $90,000 – $180,000). 

Park SeoBo

Ecriture No. 060330 by Park SeoBo. Photo from K Auction.
Ecriture No. 060330 by Park SeoBo. Photo from K Auction.

Like many of his contemporaries, Park SeoBo’s work is influenced by Western abstract art. He creates his own unique pieces from these inspirations. His Ecriture series, started in the 1970s, brought a more introspective focus to the genre.

Park spent decades reimaging his Ecriture series. He created the works’ distinct look by drawing with a pencil on a wet canvas. The earlier examples, including Ecriture No. 55-77 (lot #58, estimate: $160,000 – $500,000), are monochromatic. The artist later explored color. For these pieces, Park also placed a traditional Korean paper on top of the canvases, adding a new dimension to his work. Collectors looking for Park’s later pieces will find Ecriture No. 060330 (lot #30, estimate: $240,000 – $410,000) in the upcoming sale. 

Yoon ByungRock

The orchard where Yoon ByungRock grew up is the main inspiration of his work. Each of his pieces depict seasonal fruit, and many of his exhibitions are even organized in the fall to embrace Yoon’s harvest theme. 

While many consider his artwork to be hyperrealistic, Yoon pushes against that categorization. “[My] paintings have visible brushstrokes, which are minimized in hyperrealist paintings,” says Yoon of the distinction. “I use strokes to express the texture of apples and the grain of wood.”

Fragrance of Autumn by Yoon ByungRock. Photo from K Auction.
Fragrance of Autumn by Yoon ByungRock. Photo from K Auction.

Another stylistic choice that distinguishes Yoon’s fruit paintings is their unusual canvas shape. Instead of conforming to a normal square or rectangular shape, Yoon allows his fruits to burst out, just as they would from an overfilled crate during harvest. 

Representing Yoon in the K Auction sale is Fragrance of Autumn (lot #5, estimate: $14,000 – $45,000). The painting shows freshly-picked apples barely contained by a crate. A tree branch still hangs from one of the green apples.

Lee KunYong

Lee KunYong producing Snail Walk. Photo from MBN.
Lee KunYong producing Snail Walk. Photo from MBN.

Known as one of Korea’s original performance artists, Lee KunYong emphasizes the kinesthetic process of making art. It’s not uncommon to see him on the ground drawing or painting around his own body. “It’s not my head, but my body,” says Lee of the driving force in his work. “Where is the person who draws backwards like this in world painting history?”

Two paintings are on offer from Lee in this sale: The Method of Drawing 76-1 (lot #7, estimate: $14,000 – $23,000) and Body Drawing 76-3 (lot #47, estimate: $72,000 – $140,000). In the latter piece, viewers can see a purposefully imperfect circle Lee wrapped around his body. On top, two ends of the circle intersect and continue moving in opposite directions, forming a pretzel-like shape. 

Body Drawing 76-3 by Lee KunYong. Photo from K Auction.
Body Drawing 76-3 by Lee KunYong. Photo from K Auction.

K Auction’s Modern and Contemporary Art Sale begins on March 17th, 2021, at 4:00 PM KST. Those interested in works by these Korean artists and others from around the world can register to bid on the auction house’s website. K Auction will also offer the Korean Traditional Art & Craft sale on the same day.   

Interested in discovering more work available from across the Asian continent? Auction Daily recently began our coverage of this year’s Asia Week New York.