Seoul auctioneer seeks to sell more Hirsts to Asia

Thu Oct 1, 2009 6:49am EDT
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By Kim Yeon-hee

SEOUL (Reuters Life!) - South Korean auction house Seoul Auction is hoping to interest Chinese and other Asian collectors in modern Western and contemporary art, with the lofty aim of beating Sotheby's and Christie's in the region.

The 11-year-old auction house, which earlier this year sold British artist Damien Hirst's first work in Asia, is keen to build a regional presence through Hong Kong auctions of Western and Asian works, and in a market where antiques, rather than paintings, represent 60 percent of transaction volume.

Jun Lee, who heads Seoul Auction Co Ltd, said he has seen strong demand from Taiwan, Indonesia and South Korea at previews and sales, with more people buying art as an investment.

"We started from a point of view: Let's do what Sotheby's and Christie's are not doing. That is post-war contemporary arts," Lee, whose house was founded by top South Korean gallery operator Gana Art Gallery, told Reuters.

"It's uncharted territory," said the 20-year art market veteran.

Seoul Auction is the only Asian firm challenging the two big global houses that dominate Hong Kong's art market and focus on Chinese modern paintings, Asian contemporary arts and antiques.

Other competitors in the world's third-largest art market are small-sized local auctioneers.

Lee, 44, expects both Sotheby's and Christie's to remain focused on those categories in Asia, while offering Western artworks in London and New York.   Continued...