Korean art hit and miss at Seoul Auction Hong Kong: New York Times

SEOUL AUCTION HOUSE RESULTS

A recent article by The New York Times explains the market trends of recent Hong Kong newcomer, Seoul Auction’s two highly successful auctions held in 2009:  Korean collectors continue to acquire Western contemporary artists, Chinese artists buy modern Chinese paintings and Korean art sales are a hit and miss affair. Read on for more…

Seoul Auction was established in 1998, and was for many years was the city’s only auction house. In 2008, it opened an office in Hong Kong, and since then has been gaining international credibility as a top-rate Asian auction house. Seoul Auction uses the auction platform as a way to introduce Western art to the Asian market, as well as introducing relatively new work from South Korea and other Asian countries to the international market.

Damien Hirst, The Importance of Elsewhere – The Kingdom of Heaven. 2006. Butterflies and Household paint on canvas. 292x243.9 cm

Damien Hirst, 'The Importance of Elsewhere – The Kingdom of Heaven,' 2006, butterflies and household paint on canvas, 292x243.9 cm.

Trends in Western art

Seoul Auction’s record-breaking 2.2 million dollar sale of Damien Hirsts The Importance of Elsewhere – The Kingdom of Heaven, arguably its most notable achievement, and similarly pricey sales of other Western artists have revealed a flourishing market for Western Art in Asia. Works from Damien Hirst’s “Butterfly” series have proven very sell-able, although Seoul Auction has avoided his brush paintings – a pair of silk screen prints failed to sell at their April sale.

Donald Judds linear block sculpture Untitled (Progression 87-26) and Robert Indiana’s Eight from his number series are among those that fetched the highest prices. Roy Lichtenstein has also been introduced and has had a healthy reception.

According to the chief executive of Seoul Auction, Jun Lee, “Korean collectors are very sophisticated.” He adds that they had been collecting Western contemporary art “for the past twenty years, even when the market was not that active, even in New York. They are very open-minded. It’s a survival strategy under these circumstances, in periods of recession. We’re trying to persuade our contacts with whom we’ve built relationships over the past ten years to sell.”

Popular Asian contemporary artists

The “Infinity Nets” mixed media sculptures by Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama have been highly successful. Works by Anish Kapoor, introduced to Korea by Seoul Auction, have also been highlighted as having healthy sales.

A photographer takes a picture of Yayoi Kusama, Venus No.1, Statue of Venus, Obliterated by Infinity Nets, 1998, Oil on canvas and fiberglass, 227x145.5cm, 68 x 60 x 21cm, at Hong Kong International Art Fair. Taken from freep.com

A photographer takes a picture of Yayoi Kusama's 'Venus No.1, Statue of Venus, Obliterated by Infinity Nets' (1998) at the Hong Kong International Art Fair. Taken from freep.com.

Korean art hit and miss

Although Korean works account for forty percent of Seoul Auction’s offerings in Hong Kong, sales of Korean art have been hit and miss. Kim Whanki’s abstract geometry paintings have sold well, but video artist Nam Juin Paik’s work has failed to sell. The article accredits this to the relatively short history of South Korean art in the international market compared to that of Japanese and Chinese artists, although in recent years sales to Western collectors have increased.

Chinese collectors prefer traditional art

Chinese art has been undeniably popular among Chinese buyers. Sanyu’s Flowers in a White Vase, Wang Yi Dong’s Girl and Peaches and Zeng Fanzhi’s Mask Series no 21 3-1 sold for good prices, some even exceeding their estimates.

Also popular among Chinese buyers are traditional paintings, such as works by Impressionists Chagall, Renoir, and Picasso, but they are less interested in less familiar American pop artists. According to an article by the Hong Kong Trader, there is also a trend for crossover art.

With the growing trend for crossover art (Chinese buying Japanese art, Japanese buying Korean art, etc), Ms Shim expects more Asian auction houses will look to set up a base in Hong Kong. By moving early, she says, Seoul Auction will gain a strong foothold. ‘We are preparing now for the good times ahead.’

As expressed in The New York Times article, the buying power of China is told only too well through the popularity of traditional works when contemporary works are struggling to sell.

Read the full article here.

MM/KN/KCE

Related Topics: venues- Hong Kong, collectors, market watch – auctions

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