Yayoi Kusama's early 'Pumpkin' may become the most expensive piece sold at a Korean auction this year - Korea Times
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Yayoi Kusama's early 'Pumpkin' may become the most expensive piece sold at a Korean auction this year

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Yayoi Kusama's
Yayoi Kusama's "Pumpkin" (1981) / Courtesy of Seoul Auction

By Park Han-sol

Seoul Auction's winter sale, slated to take place next week, will feature the coveted early work of Yayoi Kusama, which is expected to become the highest priced artwork sold at Korean auctions this year.

The auction, scheduled to be held at its Gangnam Center, Nov. 23, will be packed with 127 masterpieces by Korean modern artists as well as top international artists.

The works of Kusama, one of the most sought-after Japanese contemporary artists by art collectors globally, have been featured as highlights in several recent auctions in Korea.

"Pumpkin" (1981), which will be brought under the gavel this month, is one of her earliest pieces, in which she resumed incorporating pumpkins ― an element she first started experimenting with in the 1940s in the style of the traditional form of Japanese paintings ― into her now iconic, polka-dotted paintings and prints.

Around the age of 10, the 92-year-old artist began to experience vivid hallucinations and flashes of light. She later began to transfer these visuals seared into her memory onto canvas, sculptures and walls in the form of repetitive dots. Pumpkins, among other natural components, became a source of relief from her obsessive thoughts, and one means by which she could reach a state of, what she called, "self-obliteration."

The 1.16-meter-wide work, which is expected to fetch around 5.4 billion won ($4.57 million), will be both the artist's largest and most expensive piece to be introduced at the Korean auction house. If sold, it will also become the highest priced item in the country this year, followed by Marc Chagall's "The Garden of Saint Paul," (1973) auctioned off for 4.2 billion won ($3.56 million) in May at the K Auction.

Joel Mesler's
Joel Mesler's "Untitled (c)" (2018) / Courtesy of Seoul Auction

Another notable piece up for sale is "Untitled (c)" (2018) by Joel Mesler, a rising artist who is being introduced for the first time at an auction in Korea. Before starting a new chapter of his life as a full-time artist in 2015, he worked for nearly two decades as an art dealer in New York and Los Angeles.

The work in question, which is expected to bring up to 300 million won ($254,000), is part of his "The Alphabet of Creation (For Now)" series, for the character "c" that stands for "crossroads." In the series, most of the letters are shaped as slithering snakes, surrounded by lush green palm leaves, hinting at both biblical references and the artist's own psyche.

Other main pieces to be featured include works by Korean modern masters Park Seo-bo, Lee U-fan, Lee Bae and Lee Kang-so.

박한솔 hansolp@koreatimes.co.kr

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