The Korea Herald


Auction houses introduce rare works to keep heated art market interested

Korea’s art auction market having a record-breaking year

By Park Yuna

Published : Nov. 17, 2021 - 17:44

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“Pumpkin” by Yayoi Kusama (Seoul Auction) “Pumpkin” by Yayoi Kusama (Seoul Auction)

Major Korean auction houses hope to continue the successful sales they have enjoyed this year in a market buoyed by the popularity of art as an outlet for investment. Two auctions will put up works worth more than 10 billion won ($8.5 million) at the upcoming events, featuring rare pieces.

Seoul Auction will put “Pumpkin” by Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama on the bidding block Tuesday. The work from 1981 is a rare early work, according to the auction house. The starting price is set at 5.4 billion won, and it could become the highest priced painting in the country if sold.

Kusama’s highest-priced painting at an auction in Korea was “Gold Sky Nets,” which sold for 3.65 billion won in October. The artist broke her own record set earlier in the year when “Infinity-Nets (WFTO),” a painting created in 2016, fetched 3.1 billion won in July.

“Kusama is one of the artists who have received huge attention this year in the Korean art market. Her works have sold steadily when put up for auction. Her works are growing in popularity, especially this year,” said an official from the auction house.

“The art market is hot right now, this was clearly evident at the recent KIAF Seoul in October,” she added.

The auction house will put 127 works of art up for auction Tuesday, worth some 11 billion won. The works can be seen in a preview session running through Tuesday at the Seoul Auction Gangnam Center. 

“It’s All Organic” by Shara Hughes (K Acution) “It’s All Organic” by Shara Hughes (K Acution)

At K Auction, a painting from American artist Shara Hughes comes up for auction in Korea for the first time Nov. 24, according to the auction house. The painting, “It’s All Organic,” created in 2019, will start at 550 million won. The 40-year-old artist is one of the fastest-rising artists globally and is known for the “invented landscape” that features a dream-like world reimagined from traditional landscape paintings.

The auction will start at 4 p.m. at K Auction in Gangnam, southern Seoul. It will present a total of 158 artworks worth a combined 10.7 billion won.

As of October, Korea’s art auction market has made 268 billion won in sales this year, with the two major auction houses leading the market, according to the data from the Korea Arts Management Service. The figure is the largest since records began to be kept in 1998, which recorded 179 million won in sales. Seoul Auction and K Auction have together raised 246 billion won as of October.

Lee Ufan’s “East winds” painted in 1984 was sold for 3.1 billion won in August by Seoul Auction, which remains the record auction price for a living Korean artist.

By Park Yuna (