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Painting album by Joseon master painter fails to find new owner

State-designated treasure by Jeong-seon flops at auction

Treasure No. 1,796, the painting album of Haeak Palgyeong and Songyu Palhyeondo, was up for auction on Wednesday at K Auction in Sinsa-dong, southern Seoul.
Treasure No. 1,796, the painting album of Haeak Palgyeong and Songyu Palhyeondo, was up for auction on Wednesday at K Auction in Sinsa-dong, southern Seoul.

A painting album by Jeong Seon (1676-1759), an artist hailed as a Joseon-era master of landscape painting, failed to find a new owner Wednesday at an auction held by K Auction in Sinsa-dong, southern Seoul. The bidding started at 5 billion won ($4.2 million), which itself would have been the highest price for an antique painting. 

Designated as Treasure No. 1,796, the painting album of Haeak Palgyeong and Songyu Palhyeondo comprises 16 paintings by Jeong Seon -- eight of Kumgangsan in today’s North Korea (Haeak Palgyeong) and eight depicting the Confucian scholars of China’s Song Dynasty (Songyu Palhyeondo).

The painting album by Jeong Seon is owned by the Woohak Cultural Foundation, which was established in 1996 and runs the Yongin University Museum. The treasure will be returned to the owner, K Auction said. 

The cultural foundation declined to give details about its decision to put the album up for auction or its future plans for the treasure. 

On Wednesday, 91 of the 124 antique artifacts and artworks by renowned Korean artists put up for auction were sold, raising a total of 13 billion won.

“From Point No. 770100” by Lee Ufan fetched the highest price for a painting, selling at 1.52 billion won after competitive bidding at the scene and via phone. The bidding started at 850 million won. 

K Auction, the second-largest auction house in the country, has presented state-designated treasures at two consecutive auctions. In May, it put under the hammer two Buddhist statues designated as Treasure No. 284 and Treasure No. 285, both part of the collection of Kansong Art Museum -- Korea’s first private museum, which has faced chronic financial difficulties.
Kansong’s two treasures also failed to find new owners at the highly anticipated auction.

As of July, the auction firm has presented nine state-designated treasures at its auctions over the past 15 years. In 2012, a compiled manuscript of literary works designated in 1975 as Treasure No. 585 -- which included a painting by Jeong Seon -- fetched 3.4 billion won, according to K Auction.

By Park Yuna (yunapark@heraldcorp.com)

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