The Korean Art Auction Market in the First Quarter of 2022 Reached All-Time High

The Korean art auction market reached 78.53 billion KRW (approximately $64 million USD) in the first quarter of this year, according to K-ARTMARKET, a Korean art market information system operated by the Korea Arts Management Services (KAMS).

This is the best-ever result in the first quarter—a 48.8% increase from the 52.77 billion KRW (approximately $43 million) recorded in the same period last year.

Although the number is a decrease of 7.4% compared to 2021’s fourth-quarter result, which was 84.81 billion KRW ($69 million), KAMS has a bright outlook for this year’s art auction market.

Over the past 5 years, the share in the first quarter has taken up the smallest portion of each year’s annual performance, accounting for only approximately 22%. As major auctions are scheduled to be held from the second quarter, it is likely that the Korean art market will continue to grow throughout the year. K-ARTMARKET predicts that if this trend continues, the size of the art market will reach an all-time high once again this year.

The size of the Korean art auction market in the first quarter from 2018 to 2022. Courtesy of K-ARTMARKET

Korea’s two leading auction houses—Seoul Auction and K Auction—took up the highest market share for the past three months. Seoul Auction reached a total of 42.3 billion KRW (approximately $34 million) while K Auction raised a total of 26.7 billion KRW ($22 million) in sales. The two companies accounted for 87.9% of the market.

Among the top 10 artworks with the highest auction prices, Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama’s Statue of Venus Obliterated by Infinity Nets (1998) took the first place with 4.4 billion KRW ($3.6 million). The highest priced work by a Korean artist was Lee Ufan’s From Point (1982), which was sold for 1.7 billion KRW ($1.4 million) and took third place.

American artist Shara Hughes (b. 1981), known for painting fictional landscapes, was the only artist under the age of 40 to be named on the top 10 highest auctioned price list. Her work Untitled (2005) was sold for 1.15 billion KRW (roughly $935,000) and took fifth place.

K-ARTMARKET homepage.

In the top 20 artists by total auction revenue, Lee Ufan and Yayoi Kusama ranked first and second, the same as the previous year, generating 10.2 billion KRW ($8 million) and 9.3 billion KRW ($7.5 million), respectively.

Among artists under 40, Japan’s Ayako Rokkaku (b. 1982) ranked fifth and Shara Hughes tenth while Korean artist Woo Kukwon (b. 1976) took the fourteenth and Kim Sunwoo (b. 1988) took the nineteenth on the list.

As for the number of successful bids, Lee Ufan took first place with 75 works and Kim Tschang-Yeul took second place with 57 artworks. Among Korean artists under the age of 40, there were Moon Hyeongtae (b. 1976), Ha Tae Im (b. 1973), Qwaya (b. 1991), Yislow (b. 1987), and Chungshin (b. 1981).

K-ARTMARKET released a report on April 5, analyzing 71 art auctions held in 10 auction houses in Korea between January and March.

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