Kim Whan-ki’s blue dot painting sets record for Korean painters

By Shim Woo-hyun
  • Published : Nov 24, 2019 - 17:46
  • Updated : Nov 24, 2019 - 17:46

South Korean abstract master Kim Whan-ki’s major dot painting set a record for Korean painters at an auction in Hong Kong.

“Universe 5-IV-71 #200” by the late Kim sold for HK$88 million ($11.2 million) at a Christie’s auction at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre on Saturday. 

An installation view of Kim Whan-ki’s 1971 painting “Universe 5-IV-71 #200” at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre, Hong Kong (Yonhap)

It is the first Korean painting to fetch more than 10 billion won ($8.48 million) at an auction, topping Kim’s previous record-setter, “3-II-72 #220,” a painting of red dots that sold for 8.5 billion won at Seoul Auction’s Hong Kong sale in 2018.

The bidding started at around 6 billion won, taking just 10 minutes to reach the record-high price. After some 30 bids, “Universe 5-IV-71 #200” went to an anonymous collector who bid via phone.

“Universe 5-IV-71 #200” is a 1971 dot painting regarded as one of Kim’s seminal works, produced while he was staying in New York. He passed away in New York in 1974.

The painting, which measures about 2.5 meters in height and width, is Kim’s only diptych painting and also the largest work that has been shown in an auction to date.

Kim Whan-ki poses for pictures in front of “Universe 5-IV-71 #200” at his studio in New York. (Christie's Korea)

“Universe” was previously owned by Kim’s old friend, physician and patron, who purchased the painting more than four decades ago.

Meanwhile, with the record-setting painting, Kim continues to dominate the list of the 10 most expensive Korean artists. There are currently nine works of his on the list. The only painting on the list not by Kim is a painting of a bull by Lee Jung-seob, which is now listed as the ninth most expensive.

By Shim Woo-hyun (