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Family of deceased artist files suit over museum's claims

By Kwon Mee-yoo

The late Chun Kyung-ja
The late Chun Kyung-ja
The family of Korean artist Chun Kyung-ja (1924-2015) has filed a suit against the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art (MMCA), furthering a controversy about the authenticity of one of her works.

Chun's family said that the museum has abused the painter's human rights through its long-held claims that the "Beautiful Woman" in the museum's collection is one of Chun's artworks, an assertion which was rebutted by the painter.

The "Beautiful Woman" was in a confiscated collection of artworks owned by Kim Jae-gyu, the head of the then Korean Central Intelligence Agency who assassinated President Park Chung-hee in 1979.

When the painting appeared in a museum catalog, Chun claimed that it was a fake, but the museum declared the piece to be authentic after a appraisal by an art expert.

"Parents can recognize one's child. That is not my painting," Chun protested regarding the piece.

The nearly forgotten art scandal surfaced again last October with the belated report of Chun's death.

Her second daughter Kim Jeong-hee, a Montgomery College art professor, and her husband Muhn Bum-gang represented the family and asked MMCA to admit that the "Beautiful Woman" in its collection is a fake.

The group of lawyers hired by the family is led by Bae Keum-ja; Wi Cheol-hwan, former president of Korea Bar Association; Oh Wook-hwan, former president of the Seoul Bar Association; and Park Young-soo, an attorney at Gangnam Law Firm.

Bae said that the group of lawyers came together to protect the late artist's human rights.

"It is an infringement of copyright if a person who did not create a work is declared to be the artist. What the MMCA is doing is violating the human rights of an individual and defaming a deceased person," the lawyers said in a statement.

About nine months has passed since Chun, known for her bold use of color in portraying women and flowers, passed away in New York, but the scandal continues to haunt her artistic legacy.

The controversy over Chun's "Beautiful Woman" is one of the largest art scandals in Korea, which forced the artist to retire from the local art scene in 1991. Though she continued to paint overseas, she did not sell many works.

The nation's flagship art museum said the painting was determined genuine after scientific investigation and its former employees heard the artist admitting that her claim of forgery was a mistake.

However, a major Korean media outlet reported Tuesday that the MMCA's report to the congress regarding "Beautiful Woman" was not true. The former museum officials said that they did not visit the artist regarding the forgery case and that the pigment used in Chun's painting was not enough to verify the authenticity.

Kim and Muhn sent an open letter to Bartomeu Mari Ribas, the current director of MMCA, Monday, asking him to settle the dispute even though it happened before he occupied the post.

"Director Mari Ribas made his position clear on the Lee U-fan forgery case, clarifying that the artist's opinion should be respected. However, he said there is not enough evidence to determine whether Chun's ‘Beautiful Woman' is genuine or not (even though Chun said it was not her creation), revealing a serious double standard," the family said in a statement. "Though it was before his time, he should be responsible and show willingness to take care of the museum's murky past."



Korean Language

천경자 유족 "4월 소송"…호화 변호인단 구성

'국립현대미술관장, 미인도에 이중잣대·편파적' 공개서한

'미인도' 위작 논란과 관련해 지난 연말 국립현대미술관을 상대로 소송을 예고했던 천경자 화백의 유족이 거물급 변호사들이 포함된 무료 변호인단을 구성했다. 유족 측은 4월 중 소송을 제기할 방침이다.

천 화백의 차녀 김정희 씨를 대리해 온 배금자 변호사 등은 28일 '한국 현대미술사에 비극이 더 이상 재발해서는 안 되며 작가 인권이 유린되는 일이 있어서는 안 된다고 공감한 뜻있는 변호사들이 모여 공동 변호인단을 발족하게 됐다'고 밝혔다.

'위작 미인도 폐기와 작가 인권 옹호를 위한 공동 변호인단'에는 배 변호사 외에 대한변호사협회장을 지낸 위철환(동수원종합법무법인 대표), 서울지방변호사회장을 지낸 오욱환(한원국제법률사무소 대표), 대검 중수부장 출신 박영수(법무법인 강남 대표) 변호사가 포함됐다.

이삼(전 서울고검 검사), 박용일(전 부패방지위원회 위원), 김선수(전 사법제도개혁추진위원회 단장), 임통일(전 대한변호사협회 인권위원), 김선양(국회 입법지원 위원), 박재홍(전북인권교육센터 대표) 변호사 등 모두 10명이 참여했다.

배 변호사는 '이들은 평소 미인도 사건에 관심을 두고 이 사건이 작가 개인에 대한 중대한 인권 침해라고 분개해 왔다'며 '4월 20일께 민·형사 소송을 낼 계획'이라고 말했다.

변호인단은 발족 취지문에서 '저작자가 아닌 사람을 저작자로 표시하는 것은 명확한 저작권 침해 행위이며, 작가의 사후 명예를 지속적으로 침해하는 것은 사자명예훼손'이라며 '위작 미인도와 관련해 국립현대미술관의 행위는 국가기관이 개인에게 가하는 인권 유린 행위'라고 주장했다.

이들은 바르토메우 마리 국립현대미술관장이 최근 언론 인터뷰에서 이우환 화백 위작 논란에 대해선 작가가 '진작과 위작을 결정할 수 있다'고 답했지만 천 화백과 관련해선 작가 존중의 원칙을 지키지 않았다고 지적했다.

'저작권 보호에 앞장서야 할 국가가 저작권 침해에 앞장서고 이를 계속한다면 우리 헌법상 문화국가 원리에도 어긋난다'고 주장했다.

김정희 씨와 문범강 씨 부부도 마리 관장에게 보내는 공개서한에서 '한국 최대 미술 전시기관수장의 발언은 심각한 이중잣대를 드러내고 있다'며 '미인도 사건 역사에 대해 제대로 보고받지 않았거나 그릇된 정보를 바탕으로 편파적 견해를 지니고 있다는 의심을 하게 된다'고 말했다.

김 씨 부부는 '공동 변호인단을 통해 미술관, 사건 관련 직원, 미술관과 연계된 개인과 이익단체 구성원을 대상으로 사자명예훼손, 허위 공문서 작성 혐의, 저작권 위반 등에 대한 법적 수사요청을 추진하고 있다'고 재차 밝혔다.

이어 '마리 관장에겐 사건에 적극적으로 대처해야 할 의무와 권한 또한 주어져 있다'며 '맡은 바 책임을 다하기 위해서도 어두운 역사를 해결할 의지를 보여야 한다'고 덧붙였다.

김 씨는 지난 2월 국립현대미술관을 상대로 정식 소송을 위해 유족으로서 법적 기반을 마련하겠다며 천 화백의 법적 친자임을 확인해달라는 소송을 서울가정법원에 제기한 바 있다.  (연합뉴스)



By Kwon Mee-yoo

The late Chun Kyung-ja
The late Chun Kyung-ja
The family of Korean artist Chun Kyung-ja (1924-2015) has filed a suit against the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art (MMCA), furthering a controversy about the authenticity of one of her works.

Chun's family said that the museum has abused the painter's human rights through its long-held claims that the "Beautiful Woman" in the museum's collection is one of Chun's artworks, an assertion which was rebutted by the painter.

The "Beautiful Woman" was in a confiscated collection of artworks owned by Kim Jae-gyu, the head of the then Korean Central Intelligence Agency who assassinated President Park Chung-hee in 1979.

When the painting appeared in a museum catalog, Chun claimed that it was a fake, but the museum declared the piece to be authentic after a appraisal by an art expert.

"Parents can recognize one's child. That is not my painting," Chun protested regarding the piece.

The nearly forgotten art scandal surfaced again last October with the belated report of Chun's death.

Her second daughter Kim Jeong-hee, a Montgomery College art professor, and her husband Muhn Bum-gang represented the family and asked MMCA to admit that the "Beautiful Woman" in its collection is a fake.

The group of lawyers hired by the family is led by Bae Keum-ja; Wi Cheol-hwan, former president of Korea Bar Association; Oh Wook-hwan, former president of the Seoul Bar Association; and Park Young-soo, an attorney at Gangnam Law Firm.

Bae said that the group of lawyers came together to protect the late artist's human rights.

"It is an infringement of copyright if a person who did not create a work is declared to be the artist. What the MMCA is doing is violating the human rights of an individual and defaming a deceased person," the lawyers said in a statement.

About nine months has passed since Chun, known for her bold use of color in portraying women and flowers, passed away in New York, but the scandal continues to haunt her artistic legacy.

The controversy over Chun's "Beautiful Woman" is one of the largest art scandals in Korea, which forced the artist to retire from the local art scene in 1991. Though she continued to paint overseas, she did not sell many works.

The nation's flagship art museum said the painting was determined genuine after scientific investigation and its former employees heard the artist admitting that her claim of forgery was a mistake.

However, a major Korean media outlet reported Tuesday that the MMCA's report to the congress regarding "Beautiful Woman" was not true. The former museum officials said that they did not visit the artist regarding the forgery case and that the pigment used in Chun's painting was not enough to verify the authenticity.

Kim and Muhn sent an open letter to Bartomeu Mari Ribas, the current director of MMCA, Monday, asking him to settle the dispute even though it happened before he occupied the post.

"Director Mari Ribas made his position clear on the Lee U-fan forgery case, clarifying that the artist's opinion should be respected. However, he said there is not enough evidence to determine whether Chun's ‘Beautiful Woman' is genuine or not (even though Chun said it was not her creation), revealing a serious double standard," the family said in a statement. "Though it was before his time, he should be responsible and show willingness to take care of the museum's murky past."

Kwon Mee-yoo meeyoo@koreatimes.co.kr

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