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  • NaHyun Kate Park

Kim Whan-Ki(김환기)’s 05-IV-71 #200 (Universe) rewrites the Korean art history and art market


Kim Whan-Ki(김환기)’s 05-IV-71 #200 (Universe) rewrites the Korean art history and art market

w. NaHyun Kate Park

KIM WHAN-KI (1913-1974), 05-IV-71 #200 (Universe), oil on cotton (diptych), 254 x 254 cm.

Despite the uneasy political situation that Hong Kong is undergoing at the moment, Christie’s Hong Kong yielded a thrilling outcome from 20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale on 23 November 2019. The sale sold 83 percent from 53 lots totalling HKD 880,992,500 including buyer’s premium. 13 percent were sold higher than the low estimate, 49 percent were sold within the estimate, and 21 percent were sold below the low estimate.

Amongst the big names— such as Zao-Wu Ki, Léonard Tsuguharu Foujita, Yaoi Kusama— Korean artist Kim Whan-Ki’s 05-IV-71 #200 (Universe) yielded an art historically significant result. The hammer price was HKD 88,000,000 (Korean Won 13,280,000,000) and with the buyer’s premium, it totalled HKD 101,955,000 (Korean Won 15,380,000,000), which makes it the first Korean art ever that was hammered over USD 10 billion. The pioneer and trailblazer of abstract artist of Korea, Kim Whan-Ki’s works have been a steady success and have been break-in the record of the Korean Art, thus giving the new opportunities for the new generation of Korean artists.

His late work, painted in 1971 just few years before his death, is the only diptych work that the artist executed in his lifetime. The monumental panel by its size 254 x 254 cm embodies the sublime and transcendent qualities that Kim Whan-Ki’s masterpiece sought to capture. His peripatetic life, moving from homeland South Korea to Japan, France, and finally to the US, reflects his ever struggling quest for unique painting style. 05-IV-71 #200 (Universe) was exhibited during the preview session in Christie’s New York before Christie’s Hong Kong preview, and attracted a great number of interests in both Northern America and Asia. The winner of the lot ended up being an anonymous client who bided through Christie’s New York.

The two canvas hints duality of life - sun and moon, light and shadow, man and woman, yin and yang - embodying the contradictory yet complementary forces that drive life and universe. This is one of the largest painting that the artistes created, incarnated with the epitome of his Whan-Ki Blue which is characterised by the great range of hues of blues. The deep cobalt dots are quintessential qualities of Kim Whan-Ki’s accomplished, yet struggling creative period from 1970 to 1974. Over the past 40 years, 05-IV-71 #200 (Universe) has been in the private collection of Dr. Matthew Kim who was a friend and collector of Kim Whan-Ki’s works.

This painting is the culmination of his struggle, anguish, and devotion towards his art. It was during his stay in Paris that he began to favor blue, a color that makes sense for many modern artists, each with a particular symbolism. For Kim Whanki, it reminded him of the blue sky of Korea. Filling the diptych canvas of 05-IV-71 #200 (Universe), the blue must have been the pungent nostalgia that Kim Whan-Ki could not escape at end of his life in New York.

“내가 그리는 선, 하늘 끝에 더 갔을까. 내가 찍은 점, 저 총총히 빛나는 별만큼이나 했을까. 눈을 감으면 환히 보이는 무지개보다 더 환해지는 우리 강산...”

"The line I draw, would it have gone further, further than the sky?The dot that I imprinted, would it have taken as much as a shining star? The mountain and river of my home country that become ever more brighter than the rainbow whenever I close my eyes... "

©All photos taken from Christie's website.


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