The Korea Herald


[Exclusive] LACMA admits it needs further research on donated Korean paintings

By Park Yuna

Published : May 22, 2024 - 13:50

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Two paintings -- Two paintings -- "Waikiki" and "Three Women and Child" -- attributed to Park Soo-geun are on display in the exhibition, “Korean Treasures from the Chester and Cameron Chang Collection,” at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. (Provided by a reader)

The Los Angeles County Museum of Art acknowledged further research is needed on the authenticity of some modern Korean paintings donated by Drs. Chester and Cameron C. Chang, according to the Galleries Association of Korea on Wednesday.

The museum's acknowledgment came in response to a letter that questioned the authenticity of four paintings at the museum’s exhibition “Korean Treasures from the Chester and Cameron Chang Collection” attributed to Korean modern artists Park Soo-geun and Lee Jung-seop.

Park Jin-heung, president of Park Soo Keun Research Center, Yun Bum-mo, former director of the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art and Hwang Dal-sung, president of the Galleries Association of Korea, wrote to LACMA on April 6 concerning the provenance of “Waikiki” and “Three Women and Child,” as well as “A Bull and a Child” (direct translation) and “Crawling Children” (direct translation).

The Galleries Association of Korea received the reply from the museum Tuesday, according to the association.

The exhibition “Korean Treasures from the Chester and Cameron Chang Collection,” which opened Feb. 25, presents 35 artworks recently donated by Chester and Cameron C. Chang to the museum.

The museum aimed to honor the elder Chang, Chester (Chang Jung Ki), during his lifetime through the exhibition of selected works from their donation, according to the association.

Youn claimed that he had seen these paintings in 2022 during his visit to LACMA as the director of the MMCA for the joint exhibition, “The Space Between: The Modern in Korean Art,” involving the two museums. He expressed doubt over the authenticity of some of the works there.

“I paid particular attention to paintings attributed to Park and Lee. Anyone who has knowledge of these artists’ work will easily note the paintings are not by them,” Youn told The Korea Herald on May 14, claiming he saw those works in the museum's storage upon request by the museum at the time. He gave written statements based on his appraisals to the museum, he said.

The paintings “Three Women and Child” and “A Bull and a Child,” (direct translation) attributed to Park and Lee, respectively, consist of images of frequent subjects of the artists seemingly assembled from other paintings, Youn explained.

“That is why the composition of the paintings is awkward,” he said.

“Lee Jung-seop is known for strong individual brush strokes in his bull paintings. His brush stroke is so unique that one may feel the ‘energy’ from it. You can’t get this feeling from forged works,” he added.

In 2021, LACMA announced the acquisition of an initial major gift of 100 works of Asian art from Chester and Cameron C. Chang, which consist of Korean paintings, calligraphy, sculpture, ceramics, lacquerwork, furniture and other works of art ranging in date from the Three Kingdoms period (57 B.C.-668 A.D.) to the 20th century.

“(The exhibition) is a selection of works drawn from the largest gift of Korean art in the museum’s history,” the museum said in the press release. “The bulk of the works in this collection has remained within a single family for a century and has never publicly been on view.”

Chester Chang, a former LACMA trustee, was born in Seoul in 1939 and first moved to the US as a child with his family in 1949, when his father, Chang Chi-whan, was appointed general secretary to the first consul general of Korea in Los Angeles, according to the museum. Cameron Chang, M.D. is his son.

The exhibition was curated by Stephen Little, LACMA's head of Chinese, Korean, South Asian and Southeast Asian Art.