South Korea art market profile

The market for Korean art first came to the fore in the 1980s, as the country's economy grew quickly, creating a large number of inhabitants with the means and the desire to buy art from their homeland.

Lee Ufan
Lee Ufan's 1982 work sold for $769,000 at Sotheby's in 2008

Although only a fraction of the size of China's sector, the South Korean art market is returning to the heights last seen in 2008 prior to the economic crash, with Modern and contemporary works leading the way.

Widely regarded as offering more diversity that Chinese art, prices are generally much lower, suggesting that the sector has considerable room for growth.

That's not to say that the top end of the market is cheap:

A 1995 Yayoi Kusama work, Infinity stars, made $1.1m at a Korean auction in March, while a 2006 portrait by Zeng Fanzhi sold for $840,668 during the same month.

Others artists currently performing well at auction include Kim Whanki, Park SooKeun, Yoo YoungKuk, Kim Chonghak and Lee Ufan.

The growing popularity of art as an investment has seen a shift in focus for many Korean artists, keen to earn a reputation, and a wage, says the Korea Times newspaper.

"As a result, visually-stunning, large-scale works have become increasingly popular," it said recently.

"By creating and presenting large-scale vistas, artists are able to establish their international reputation and create international demand for their work."

Sotheby's and Christie's both host annual Korean art sales each March, offering superb opportunities for international buyers to enter the market. 

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