Korea

Artist Lee Ufan’s forgery scandal continues

Three people have been arrested for allegedly forging and selling copies of artist Lee Ufan’s paintings. A National Forensic Service investigation confirmed that the six works in question do not align with genuine pieces by Ufan. The artist, however, maintains that the 13 paintings in questions are his authentic works.

Following a tip-off last December, the police raided Seoul galleries suspected of selling fake artworks by Ufan. The following month the police said that the Certificate of Authenticity for his 1978 painting From Point No. 780217, which was sold for US$415,600 to a private collector at an auction last year, had been forged. Although the artwork itself was proven to be authentic, the incident raised further suspicions surrounding the authenticity of his paintings.

In May and July, the police arrested three art forgers for 55 fake pieces claimed to have been done by Ufan, and selling them through the same gallery implicated in the latest police discovery. With four of the 13 paintings seized by the police credited to this group and six paintings claimed to have been forged by the latest forgery ring, the source or sources of the remaining three seized paintings are still unknown.

Ufan has been steadfast in his claims that the paintings alleged to have been forged are in fact his works. “A person’s flow and rhythm are like one’s fingerprints, which cannot be imitated,” he said at a press conference in June, after examining 13 works the National Forensic Service seized and identified as fake. “They are undoubtedly mine.”

New law to root out counterfeit artwork in Korea

The Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism announced Thursday that it will legislate a new law regarding artwork distribution in an effort to root out the distribution of counterfeit works, recover public trust in Korea’s art market, and establish a healthy trading platform for creative crafts. The law will be implemented in August 2017.

The new law will divide art distribution into three major categories: art galleries, which will be subject to a registration system; art auctions, to a permit system; and other sales of artworks, to a reporting system.

Currently, art galleries or art auction houses can operate with only a business license, and without official registration or approval, which led to criticism that they lacked transparency and engaged in unfair practices in their art distribution process.

With the new law, however, art galleries will have to submit plans to prevent counterfeit artworks as well as a list of all of their affiliate artists. Auction firms will also have to provide counterfeit prevention measures, while possessing certain qualifications including at least 200 million won in capital, an official auctioneer, and an auction house.

Furthermore, artwork distributors will be obliged to maintain records for each of their artworks, and issue an official warranty when they’re sold. Failure to do so will also be result in fines and cancelled business licenses.

The law will implement stronger punishment for counterfeit crimes as well, by stipulating that these types of crimes be punishable by up to five years in prison or 50 million won in fines. The ministry will also consider the potential implementation of special judicial police specific to artwork fraud.

Meanwhile, the ministry is to establish a national body for artwork authentication, which will function as the official agency responsible for developing new authentication technology and professionals in related fields.

“The institute will be operated not as a government agency but as a public one, and will help improve Korea’s art authentication technology, as well as aiding with crimes, investigations, and trials related to counterfeit artwork,” said Jung. “It will be staffed by professional researchers and appraisers.”

The full details of the law are to be revealed in the first half of 2017.

French firm to authenticate controversial Korean painting

Chun Kyung-ja was one of the most prominent female painters in Korea’s modern art history. She is best known for her portrayal of women and flowers, as shown in her controversial painting Beautiful Woman.

The controversy began in 1991 when Chun claimed that a painting attributed to her, which was (and has since been) on display at the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art (MMCA), was a fake. An authentication process soon followed, but eventually the museum and the Galleries Association of Korea (GAK) announced that the work was legitimate.

Unconvinced and full of despair, Chun donated 93 of her works and left Korea for the United States in 1998, never to return. During the entire period of her exile to the U.S. up until her death in 2015, Chun never painted again.

But the authenticity dispute resurfaced with media coverage of Chun’s later years and the controversial painting, with Chun’s remaining family members and their team of lawyers filing a lawsuit in April against MMCA officials claiming that the museum had declared a counterfeit painting as a genuine one.

The lawyers have since demanded that an outside institution with no relationship to the MMCA or the GAK carry out an authentication process for impartiality, which is when the French art technology firm Lumiere Technology stepped in.

The authentication team from the French company arrived in Korea Tuesday, according to the Prosecutors’ Office, and has since been carrying out its authentication procedure using the company’s self-pioneered technique called Layer Amplification Method; the same method the company used to analyze the Mona Lisa and discover a hidden portrait under the iconic Da Vinci painting.

The method will analyse the controversial painting for its various elements, such as brush stroke, paints, and the order of workflow, and compare it to other works by Chun for a comparative analysis. According to the prosecutors, the process is expected to wrap up by the end of the month.

Prosecutors will be piecing together all the corroborative evidence, including the final verdict from Lumiere Technology, to determine the authenticity of Beautiful Woman, and officials are hopeful that the decades-long dispute will finally be settled.

Family of Chun Kyung Ja continues deceased artist's fight To have 'fake' painting removed from Seoul Museum

The South Korean painter Chun Kyung Ja was quite clear on how she felt about the version of her painting Beautiful Woman still in the collection in Seoul’s National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art (MMCA).

“Parents can recognise one’s child,” Chun said, according to a recent Korea Times report. “That is not my painting.”

Before the artist’s death in October at the age of 91, the scandal over Beautiful Woman had mostly faded from the spotlight. But it was her frustration over the alleged forgery of her work that prompted the artist to leave South Korea in favor of the US in 1991 and completely disappear from the public eye, donating 93 paintings to the Seoul Museul of Art and moving to New York, where she lived until her death.