Back To Top
Life&Style

Artworks held by late Samsung chairman likely to be donated to MMCA, National Museum of Korea

The late Samsung Chairman Lee Kun-hee attends a New Year’s dinner for executives at the Hotel Shilla in Seoul in 2014 with his wife, Hong Ra-hee (left), former director of the Leeum, Samsung Museum of Art. (Yonhap)
The late Samsung Chairman Lee Kun-hee attends a New Year’s dinner for executives at the Hotel Shilla in Seoul in 2014 with his wife, Hong Ra-hee (left), former director of the Leeum, Samsung Museum of Art. (Yonhap)

Several modern and contemporary artworks in the late Samsung Group Chairman Lee Kun-hee’s collection may be headed to the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Korea.

“The discussion about Lee’s art collection donation to the museum is continuing. Details are yet to be disclosed, but we will announce the result when the matter is settled,” a public relations official from the MMCA told The Korea Herald. “We can’t say how many works are under discussion.”

Local daily Hankyoreh reported late Tuesday that about 1,000 Western artworks would be donated to the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Korea, with several national treasures, treasures and antique art pieces donated to the National Museum of Korea.

The plan for the distribution of Lee’s personal wealth, which is estimated to be worth approximately 30 trillion won ($27 billion), and includes donations of art and allocation of his stocks to family members as well as how the inheritance taxes would be paid by the family are expected to announced as early as next week, as the deadline for paying the inheritance tax approaches.

The appraisal of approximately 12,000 works or art was completed last month with the involvement of three Korean appraisal bodies: the Galleries Association of Korea’s Art Appraisal and Authentication Committee, the Korean Art Price Appraise Association and the Korea Art Authentication and Appraisal Research Center.

“We submitted the appraisal result last month,” said a source from one appraisal company who declined to be named. “The total of appraised works is estimated to be worth from 2.5 trillion to 3 trillion won, so the inheritance tax for the collection will be about 1.25 trillion to 1.5 trillion won.”

Because the collection consists largely of antique art, some of the collection are expected to be donated to the National Museum of Korea and some local public art museums, including those in Daegu and South Jeolla Province, the source added.

Meanwhile, a National Museum of Korea official said that the museum was waiting for Samsung to make an announcement.

An avid art collector, Lee died on Oct. 25, 2020 at the age of 78. He owned an important collection of Korean art as well as contemporary Western works. “The business of art and culture contributes not only to improving quality of life, but also to raising the national dignity,” Lee once said, according to a Samsung official.

One point of speculation about the collection held that some foreign works of art would be sold through international auction houses such as Sotheby’s and Christie’s. However, this is unlikely to happen, according to a Samsung Electronics insider, considering the country’s sentiment about the company.
"It is personal property and is a sensitive issue to discuss. But Samsung’s growth is largely attributed to Koreans. It is nonsense to sell off the collection abroad to pay the inheritance tax,” the source said.

The Samsung Foundation of Culture, which runs Leeum, Samsung Museum of Art in central Seoul, declined to comment on the donation plan, saying only, “It is private property.”

By Park Yuna, Song Su-hyun (yunapark@heraldcorp.com) (song@heraldcorp.com)

MOST POPULAR