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Byun Shi-ji’s painting sold at K-auction suspected of forgery

Byun Shi-ji’s painting sold at K-auction suspected of forgery

Posted January. 05, 2021 07:26,   

Updated January. 05, 2021 07:26


K-auction, which was embroiled in an art forgery dispute over Lee Ufan’s paintings, is now under fire for putting a painting of another famous artist suspected of forgery up for auction. The auction house offered a piece by Byun Shi-ji (1926-2013), which was suspected of forgery, up for auction in December last year but removed it a day before the auction on Dec. 7.

According to art collector/businessman Lee Yun-kwan and Byun Jeong-hoon, son of Byun Shi-ji and chairman of the Art ShiJi, on Monday, K-auction sold an untitled painting at its auction held on Dec. 8 as a piece by Byun Shi-ji. Lee found the piece before the auction on Nov. 27 and raised the possibility of forgery with K-auction but the auction house said the painting was submitted through internal review.

However, in a video introducing the works of Byun Shi-ji attached to the K-auction’s website, the untitled painting is cited as an example of forgery. “The video posted by K-auction is a clip from a KBS TV show in 2007 and the painting is introduced as a forgery in the website of Byun Shi-ji shown in the clip,” said Lee.

Chairman Byun said he is sure that the painting sold at the K-auction is a forgery. “The untitled painting in question was put up for sale while my father was making his official website and he said the piece was a forgery. So he introduced the painting as an example of forgery on his website to inform collectors of any potential dispute,” said Byun. “If you look at the shape of the thatched hut or the way straw ropes are tied, it is very different from the artist’s own paintings.”

K-auction waited until a day before the auction to delete the painting from its list of sales even though there were objective circumstantial evidence and objection from a collector. It was even after one bid was submitted. “It is hard to give an official opinion on the authenticity of the painting,” said Son Yee-chun, director at K-auction. “But the consignor withdrew the painting from auction when we explained the situation and asked for re-verification.” Son added that K-auction does not sell disputed paintings after collecting opinions from internal and external experts. But Lee refuted the argument, saying the disputed painting would have been sold at auction without any verification if he had not raised an objection.

The reason forgeries listed for auction is particularly problematic is because a lot of art collectors believe that the paintings sold at auctions are authentic since they go through a verification process.

Min Kim kimmin@donga.com