$2.2m Landscape in Blue painting could set the scene at Korean art auction
As we've reported, Christie's is holding a series of Asian art auctions this month, including an extensive sale of Chinese art, led by a $1.5m Ming bronze figure of Variocana, and a sale of Japanese and Korean art.

So far, we have only looked at the Japanese portion of the auction, which is headed by a Toshusai Sharuku portrait of the actor Otani Oniji III as Edobei in the Kabuki play The Beloved Wife's Particolored Reins.

That is expected to bring up to $800,000, but the Korean art on offer is just as spectacular.

Highlighting this section of the sale is Kim Whanki's (1913-1974) Landscape in Blue ($2m-2.2m). Whanki has become a pillar of Korean modern masters by using his unique blend of Eastern and Western influences.

In the 1950's he began to extract imagery from the Korean landscape - a blue moon, a mountain, a forest - a symbolic naturalism in keeping with post-colonial nationalism and the art name he chose, Suhwa, which means "to speak with the trees."

Kim Whanki Landscape in Blue
Kim Whanki's absorbing work Landscape in Blue

Landscape in Blue is representative of the abstract style with which the artist is so closely associated. This painting was purchased by a private collector directly from the artist.

A splendid oil and mixed media painting by Park Sookeun is also available. Returning from the Market (painted in 1965) depicts three women, all in traditional Korean clothing (hanbok), and a boy, returning home from the market ($400,000-500,000).

Since Christie's New York began selling the work of Park Sookeun eighteen years ago, he has become the most sought-after modern Korean master.

Returning from the Market has remained in the hands of the same collector, who purchased it directly from Park Sookeun. Twenty-one paintings by Park Sookeun have been sold by Christie's.

Also of note is an 18th century large blue and white porcelain bottle, painted with riverscapes and plants ($400,000-$500,000). The Joseon Dynasty bottle depicts two scenes, both framed by narrow blue lines.

One illustrates a scholar and boy attendant on a rock ledge, observing a fisherman poling his boat in an inlet, bordered by willows and grasses, while the other is painted with a fisherman steering his boat in more wind-whipped water between a rocky, pine-studded shore and hills.

Also of the Joseon Dynasty is a blue and white porcelain faceted bowl with the Ten Signs of Long Life (Shipjangsaeng) ($55,000-70,000).

The exterior of the octagonal bowl is decorated with longevity symbols, including a dragon spewing ether, a peach, a pair of confronted cranes, a pair of leaping deer, and sacred pulloch'o fungus and a pine.

Christie's Japanese and Korean art auction takes place on September 14 in New York.


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