April Auctions in Korea Feature Rare Works by Lee Kun-yong, Lee Joong-seop, and Kim Whan-ki

Jonathan Feel
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This month, auctions at Korea’s two largest auction houses will feature rare works that have recently been difficult to see in the market.

Lee Kun-yong's Snail Walk. Image courtesy of Seoul Auction.
Lee Kun-yong’s Snail Walk. Image courtesy of Seoul Auction.

Seoul Auction will display a total of 113 items at an auction to be held at Gangnam Center in Seoul on April 23, 2024. The most notable artwork is the result of experimental artist Lee Kun-yong’s representative performance, titled Snail Walk. This artwork will be put up for auction for the first time. Snail Walk is a performance where an artist squats down and draws lines with chalk while removing some of those lines with his bare feet. The artwork at auction is the result of the performance at the 50th-anniversary exhibition of diplomatic ties between Korea and Turkey held at the Bupyeong Museum of History in Incheon in 2007. A set of ten items costs an estimated USD 150,220 to $225,300.

Works from monochromatic artist Ha Chong-Hyun’s Conjunction series and Park Seo-bo‘s Écriture series will be available, as well as items by modern artists such as Moon Shin, Lee Dai Won, and Nam Kwan. Hyperrealist painter Ko Young Hoon’s large-scale installation work titled We will also be auctioned.

Ancient maps and rare ancient documents with rich historical value will be exhibited in the ancient art field. Notably, Map, which started at $22,600, was created by the Japanese government in 1855 and marked the East Sea with the Sea of Joseon, not the Sea of Japan. Last year, Map was introduced to a KBS program that determines whether ancient art is genuine or not and was appraised at around $36,000. These entries can be viewed free of charge at the Seoul Auction Gangnam Center.

Lee Joong-seop's Family of Poet Ku Sang. Image courtesy of K Auction.
Lee Joong-seop’s Family of Poet Ku Sang. Image courtesy of K Auction.

Following this, on April 24, 2024, K Auction will showcase a total of 130 items together worth approximately $10.62 million at its headquarters in Gangnam-gu, Seoul, including Lee Joong-seop’s artwork, which will be auctioned for the first time in 70 years and Kim Whan-ki‘s dot painting of the New York era. 

The most notable work in the sale is Lee Joong-seop’s Family of Poet Ku Sang, which is considered one of the two major objects of modern Western painting in Korea, along with Park Soo-keun. This work with a sad story was given to Ku Sang by Lee Joong-seop in 1955. At the time, Lee Joong-seop was buoyed by hopes of reuniting with his family in Japan after being separated by the Korean War, thanks to the huge success of solo exhibitions in Seoul and Daegu. However, he was unable to travel to Japan because he did not receive payment for his work despite its popularity.

Discouraged, Lee Joong-seop visited the house of his longtime friend, Ku Sang. He was tearful when he saw Ku Sang riding a bicycle with his son. It reminded him of his son, who promised to buy him a bike. While drawing a picture of the happy family, Lee Joong-seop put a picture of himself on the right. Lee Joong-seop handed it to Ku Sang, calling it a “family photo.” At the left end of the painting is a girl standing with her back facing the Ku Sang family, the daughter of Choi Tae-eung, a novelist who was staying alone at Ku Sang’s house. Lee Joong-seop and a girl, who may feel sorry for each other, are placed on both sides of the happy-looking family, evoking sadness and longing together.

“Lee Joong-seop’s hands are touching Ku Sang’s son’s hands in defiance of perspective,” K Auction said. “In Lee Joong-seop’s other works, his long arms are connected to family members, animals and others, and this seems to be the ideal world in Lee Joong-seop’s mind, who wants to forget the reality with his own unique technique.” The starting price of this work is $1 million.

Henri Matisse's artist book Jazz. Image courtesy of K Auction.
Henri Matisse’s artist book Jazz. Image courtesy of K Auction.

In addition, Kim Whan-ki’s New York-era dot painting 22-X-73 #325 (1973) will be auctioned at a starting price of $2.51 million. Henri Matisse’s artist book Jazz (estimate: $700,000 – $890,000) will also be auctioned for the first time in Korea. This work is a collection of 20 prints and writings. These are rarely submitted as a complete set, so it is considered highly rare. The auction preview can be viewed free of charge at the K Auction exhibition hall until the day of the sale.

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Jonathan Feel
Jonathan Feel

Jonathan Feel is a reporter and editor for Auction Daily in Korea. He has been active in various fields such as the media, social economy, village community, and fair trade coffee industry and is writing. It is recognized that art is not far from society and the times, and that art can be a tool for the sustainability of the Earth and mankind. He hopes that good works and artists in Korea will meet with readers.

김이준수는 한국 주재 옥션데일리 필진이자 편집자이다. 언론, 사회적경제, 마을공동체, 공정무역 커피업계 등 다양한 분야에서 활동했고 글을 쓰고 있다. 예술이 사회·시대와 동떨어져 있지 않으며, 예술이 지구와 인류의 지속가능성을 위한 도구가 될 수 있음을 인식하고 있다. 한국의 좋은 작품과 아티스트를 많이 소개하고 싶다.

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