According to the Korean Art Price Appraisal Association, the total value of online and offline auctions held by eight Korean art auction houses reached 143.8 billion KRW (approximately $121 million), with a total of 10,999 artworks sold for the first six months of the year.
The sales figure hit an all-time high, exceeding last year’s total record of 115.3 billion KRW ($97 million).
By auction houses, Seoul Auction had the highest market share with 69.7 billion KRW ($59 million), followed by K Auction with 60.8 billion KRW ($51 million). Together, they brought in 130.5 billion KRW ($110 million), which accounted for 90% of the total auction market.
As demand is expected to remain strong throughout the year, the two auction houses have been carrying out major sales every month since March, which had been previously held four times a year on average.
By August, both auction houses had five major auctions, with sales of over 10 billion KRW ($8.5 million).
Dansaekhwa, or “Korean monochrome painting,” continued to lead the local auction market in the first half of the year.
The total value of Lee Ufan’s (b. 1936) sold works reached 18.7 billion KRW (roughly $16 million). Works by other Dansaekhwa artists, such as Kim Whanki (1913–1974), Park Seo-Bo (b. 1931), Chung Sang-Hwa (b. 1932), as well as water drop painter Kim Tschang-Yeul (1929–2021), also sold for some of the 20 highest auction prices.
Woo Kuk Won (b. 1976), Moon Hyeong-Tae (b. 1976), and Kim Sunwoo (b. 1988) were some of the younger artists in their 30s and 40s who were in high demand in the first half of the year.
Woo Kuk Won’s Satisfaction (2020) recorded 40 million KRW ($34,000), five times higher than the starting price at K-auction in June.
Local art market experts predict that if this trend continues, the size of the Korean art auction market this year will reach 300 billion KRW ($253 million).