Hyojoon Cha, Korea’s First Cruise Auctioneer, Reflects on “A Series of Surprises”
Compared to the rest of the world, the Korean art auction market is small. The volume of transactions in the first half of this year was about USD 63.22 million (KRW 81.1 billion), which is very poor considering the country’s status as the world’s tenth largest economy. Of course, this figure is also proof that the market is likely to expand. Such an expansion recently took place. Panstar Enterprise, which runs a cruise business in Korea, and new auction company Star Auction joined hands to hold a cruise auction on June 27, 2023. “Cruise auctions are held in North America and Europe, but this is the first one we are aware of in Asia,” Star Auction said.
Before the cruise auction, many people looked at it with skepticism. It is not easy to achieve good results with cruise auctions due to the narrow market size, lack of publicity, and unfamiliarity. However, the results after implementation were unexpected. Considering this was the first attempt at a cruise auction in Korea, it was a success. A total of 48 items were put up for auction, and more than half of them were sold. Transactions ranged from about $800 to over $10,000. These amounts are not large, but they were definitely more than expected when the event was planned three months ago. Star Auction also noted the “unexpected results.”
Auction Daily met with Hyojoon Cha, CEO of Star Auction, who led the cruise sale. Cha has been an auctioneer since 2006 as a founding member of the Korean auction house TheAuction. Having worked in sales and marketing at large hotels with a lot of art transactions, he is well-known for his skillful explanation of works from a customer’s perspective. He has organized around 100 auctions, including private sales. Last year, Cha set up auction companies in both Korea (Star Auction) and Singapore (KUVA).
Auction Daily: How did you come up with the cruise ship auction?
Hyojoon Cha: Panstar Enterprise offered it first, and we agreed to it. But that was three months before the cruise. It is very regrettable that time was so tight that we could not properly promote it. If we had planned and promoted it early, I think the auction would have achieved an even better result.
Auction Daily: I don’t think it would have been easy to select the auction lots. How did you choose them?
Hyojoon Cha: Actually, I’m sorry for this, too. There was not much information about cruise passengers. Almost all the information was that the age range of passengers ranged from 30s to 80s. I had to decide what works to put up at the auction, and eventually I chose paintings that people in their 40s and 50s could like. It consists of works that anyone can easily understand rather than difficult works.
Auction Daily: A cruise ship auction is bound to be different from a regular auction. How did it go?
Hyojoon Cha: The cruise was scheduled for four nights and five days. Passengers had other activities planned in the morning and afternoon and had free time only in the evenings. So, the exhibition was held from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. for three days from the first day so that passengers could preview. The exhibition utilized some space in duty-free shops during the cruise. And on the fourth day, the auction was held from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m.
Auction Daily: I wonder how the atmosphere was at the scene.
Hyojoon Cha: 400 to 500 passengers visited the exhibition ahead of the auction to appreciate the works. Since the total number of passengers on the cruise was 2,000, many people saw the works. Passengers showed great interest every day, and all three executives and employees, including myself, were hoarse. Since it was the first such cruise auction, there was an unexpected variable. The problem was the sound of music from the exhibition site. Because of this, it was not easy to answer questions, leading us to lose our voices. On the day of the auction, about 400 people filled the seats.
Auction Daily: It was said that the result was better than expected. Were you surprised?
Hyojoon Cha: It was a series of surprises. In short, we say it’s a big success. It also seems to have worked positively that passengers were able to enjoy the works with sufficient time over three days. Passengers felt familiar with the works, and those who were not interested in the auction or had never participated before seemed to have participated in the auction out of curiosity.
Auction Daily: Since this was the first cruise art auction in Asia, how do you rate it?
Hyojoon Cha: I saw the future of the Korean art auction market. In fact, many people in Korea regard going to galleries as a kind of special event. It has not been easy to find a gallery, and above all, it was not easy to access auction events. It is necessary to increase these opportunities through various events in the future.
Auction Daily: Do you have any plans for another cruise auction in the future?
Hyojoon Cha: Of course. We have already decided to hold a cruise auction event next year. If there is a chance within this year, we will also hold an additional event. We aim to hold an auction event on a cruise ship departing from Korea four times a year.