A heated dispute in Korea over the authenticity of a work by the country’s most famous artist, Park Soo-keun, appears to have been resolved by the announcement by the Korean Art Appraisal Association that A Wash Place, 1954, is not a fake.
The painting sold at Seoul Auction for won 4.52bn, ($4.86m), on 22 May 2007. It was the highest price ever made in South Korea for a work of art.
The doubts about the authenticity of the painting surfaced at the end of last year when the art magazine Artrade ran an article questioning its provenance. The magazine claimed that the work is different from the original one recorded in Park’s catalogue raisonné published in 1995.
Seoul Auction, which sold the painting to a Korean collector, bitterly disputed these claims. It said that the consignor of the work was an American collector, who bought the painting in 1955 directly from the artist while he was working at the Seoul branch of a large American company. He took the painting with him when he returned to the US and kept it for more than 50 years.
The Korean Art Appraisal Institute, which conducted a detailed analysis of the work following the publication of the article, first announced that the painting was authentic on 4 January, but decided to do a second assessment after Artrade publicly disputed the results of the first analysis.
On 9 January the institute called in a second team of 20 experts, connoisseurs, art critics, gallery representatives and the son of the late Park Soo-keun. After a five hour reappraisal, Oh Kwang-soo, the former director of the National Museum of Contemporary Art, confirmed the authenticity of the painting at a press conference. He said: “19 members out of 20 have agreed that the work is authentic.”
The next day, the son of the painter, Park Sungnam, told the press: “There is no doubt that the work was painted by my father. The crucial thing is that the work has returned to Korea. I hope there will be more thoughtful research on my father’s work in the future.”
But Ryu Byeong-hak, the editor of Artrade, criticised the appraisal association, saying that the list of the 20 experts was not disclosed to the public and they had not carried out more detailed scientific examinations. Professor Choy Myeong-yoon of Myongji University, the nation’s leading advisor on the provenance of works of art using scientific techniques, refused to join the appraising team because of the failure to disclose the list of members to the public.
Meanwhile, Seoul Auction has said that it will file a libel suit against Artrade, though this had not happened as we went to press.
Originally appeared in The Art Newspaper as 'Work sold for record price in Seoul is not a fake, investigation finds'