KIM WHANKI (1913-1974)
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KIM WHAN-KI (1913-1974)

05-IV-71 #200 (Universe)

KIM WHAN-KI (1913-1974)
05-IV-71 #200 (Universe)
signed ‘whanki’, titled and dated ‘5-IV-71 #200’ and inscribed ‘New York (100 x 50)’ (on the reverse of the left panel); titled and dated ‘#200 5-IV-71’ and inscribed ‘100 x 50 R’ (on the reverse of the right panel)
oil on cotton (diptych)
each panel: 254 x 127 cm. (100 x 50 in.)
overall: 254 x 254 cm. (100 x 100 in.)
Painted in 1971
Acquired directly from the artist by the present owners'family
Whanki Foudation (ed.), Whanki (Special Exhibition for the 13th Sao Paulo Biennial), exh. cat., Whanki Foundation, New York, USA, 1975 (illustrated, front cover, p. 7).
Whanki Foundation, Jean-Robert Arnaud (ed.), Whanki, S.M.I., Paris, France, 1983 (illustrated in black and white, p. 201).
Anne Tronche, Whan-ki: Retrospective 1963-1974, exh. cat., Centre National des Arts Plastiques, Paris, France, 1987 (illustrated, p. 42-43).
Kim Hyangan, Kim Whanki: Vie et Oeuvre (Life and Work), Maeght Éditeur, Paris, France, 1992 (illustrated, p. 9).
Samsung Cultural Foundation (ed.), Korean Artists – Kim Whanki, Samsung Cultural Foundation, Seoul, Korea, 1997 (illustrated, plate 62, p. 144).
Gallery Hyundai (ed.), Whan-ki, exh. cat., Gallery Hyundai, Seoul, Korea, 1999 (illustrated, p. 73).
Whanki Museum (ed.), 30 Anniversary of Kim Whanki - The man is gone and the Art is remained, exh. cat., Whanki Museum, Seoul, Korea, 2004 (illustrated, p. 109).
Whanki Museum (ed.), Echo of Blue, exh. cat., Whanki Museum, Seoul, Korea, 2008 (illustrated, p. 8).
Nancy Cater, Marronie Books, Gallery Hyundai (ed.), Kim Whan-ki 1913-1974: The Most Beloved Painter in Korea, exh. cat., Marronie Books, Paju, Korea, 2012 (illustrated, p. 273, p.358).
Mathew Kim, Mathew Kim’s Memoir, Jiwasarang Publishing, Seoul, Korea, 2012 (illustrated, p. 180-185).
Whanki Museum (ed.), Kim Whanki and The Beauty of Korea, exh. cat., Whanki Museum, Seoul, Korea, 2012 (illustrated, p. 7-11, 19).
Whanki Museum (ed.), Works on Paper: The Centennial Celebration of Kim Whanki’s Birth, exh. cat., Whanki Museum, Seoul, Korea, 2013 (illustrated, p. 9, 62-63).
Whanki Museum (ed.), The Centennial Celebration of Kim Whanki’s Birth II: Kim Whanki, Chant for Eternity, exh. cat., Whanki Museum, Seoul, Korea, 2013 (illustrated, p. 7, 107-109).
100 Masterpieces of Korean Modern and Contemporary Paintings, exh. cat., National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Seoul, Korea, 2013 (illustrated).
Yongwoo Lee (ed.), Dansaekhwa: Chung Sang Sup, Chung Sang Hwa, Ha Chong Hyun, Kim Whanki, Kwon Young Woo, Lee Ufan, Park Seo Bo (Collateral Events of the 56th International Art Exhibition–la Biennale di Venezia), exh. cat., Kukje Gallery Inc., Seoul, Korea, 2016 (illustrated, p. 131, unpaged).
The Centennial Celebration of Kim Hyang-An’s Birth: The Muse, Kim Hyang-An I – Her Story, exh. cat., Whanki Museum, Seoul, Korea, 2016 (illustrated, p. 35, unpaged).
Whanki Museum (ed.), Whanki, Whanki Museum, Seoul, Korea, 2017 (illustrated, p. 209).
Whanki Museum (ed.), Whanki: A Pioneer of Korean Modern Art, exh. cat., Whanki Museum, Seoul, Korea, 2017 (illustrated, p. 209).
Whanki Museum (ed.), Kim Whanki – the Aesthetics of Colours, exh. cat., Whanki Museum, Seoul, Korea, 2017 (illustrated, p. 57). Marilyn Stokstad, Michael W. Cothren, Art History, Pearson, London, United Kingdom, 2018 (illustrated, plate 25-22, p. 827).
Whanki Museum (ed.), Contemplative Space, Artist Note, exh. cat., Whanki Museum, Seoul, Korea, 2018 (illustrated, p.31, unpaged).
Whanki Museum (ed.), The 40th Anniversary of the Whanki Foundation – Whanki Museum Highlights, exh. cat., Whanki Museum, Seoul, Korea, 2019 (illustrated, p. 45).
New York, USA, Poindexter Gallery, Whanki, 25th September – 21st October 1971.
Sao Paulo, Brazil, the 13th Sao Paulo Biennial, Special Exhibition Whanki, 17th October – 15th December 1975.
Paris, France, Centre National des Arts Plastiques, Whanki: Retrospective 1963-1974, 12th May – 14th June 1987.
Seoul, Korea, Gallery Hyundai, Whanki, 4th – 30th May 1999.
Seoul, Korea, Whanki Museum, 30th Anniversary of Kim Whanki – The man is gone and the Art is remained, 23th November 2004 – 6th February 2005.
Seoul, Korea, Whanki Museum, Echo of Blue, 26th September – 7th December 2008.
Seoul, Korea, Gallery Hyundai, The Ministry of Culture and Tourism, The Jongno-gu Office, Seoul, The Master of Modern Art in Korea: Kim Whanki, 6th January – 26th February 2012.
Seoul, Korea, Whanki Museum, Kim Whanki and The Beauty of Korea, 5th October – 9th December 2012.
Seoul, Korea, Whanki Museum, Works on Paper: The Centennial Celebration of Kim Whanki’s Birth, 27th February – 23rd June 2013.
Seoul, Korea, Whanki Museum, The Centennial Celebration of Kim Whanki’s Birth II: Kim Whanki, Chant for Eternity, 28th September – 31st December 2013.
Seoul, Korea, National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, 100 Masterpieces of Korean Modern and Contemporary Paintings, 29th October 2013 – 31st March 2014.
Venice, Italy, Collateral Events of the 56th International Art Exhibition–la Biennale di Venezia, Boghossian Foundation, Kukje Gallery, Tina Kim Gallery, Dansaekhwa,7th May – 15 August 2015.
Seoul, Korea, Whanki Museum, The Centennial Celebration of Kim Hyang-An’s Birth: The Muse, Kim Hyang-An I – Her Story, 30th August 2016 – 22nd January 2017.
Seoul, Korea, Whanki Museum, Kim Whanki – the Aesthetics of Colours, 24 November 2017 – 1st April 2018.
Seoul, Korea, Whanki Museum, Contemplative Space, Artist Note, 18th May – 26th August 2018.
Seoul, Korea, Whanki Museum, Kim Whanki, From Nature to Abstract Art, 26th July – 27th October 2019.
Seoul, Korea, Whanki Museum, The 40th Anniversary of the Whanki Foundation – Whanki Museum Highlights, 14th December 2018 – 31st March 2019.

Brought to you by

Shanshan Wei
Shanshan Wei

Lot Essay

After leaving his native Korea for the United States at the age of 25, Dr. Matthew Kim began a distinguished career in the medical profession, eventually becoming an accomplished surgeon in the New York City area. In addition to establishing and growing his practice, Dr. Kim cultivated an enduring interest in the arts. He actively pursued what would become a lifelong commitment to supporting painting, sculpture, literature, poetry, and music.

Dr. Kim first encountered the arts during his formative years in middle school in his hometown in what is now North Korea. He was lucky to have two talented artists as his teachers, the poet Kim Kirim and the painter Kim Hagun. They exposed the young Kim to the world of literature and painting, thus sowing the seeds of a lifelong interest in the arts.

As a young man, Dr. Kim frequented the coffee houses of the Kwangbok-dong district of Busan, a place in southern Korea that was frequented by many artists displaced by the Korean War, including the novelist Kim Malbong, whose daughter Chae Kum would later become Dr. Kim's wife. One of his closest and most enduring friendships would begin as a chance meeting in the street when he, Kim Malbong, and his then fiancée Chae Kum ran into the painter, Kim Whan-Ki. Already making a name for himself in the Korean art world, the pioneering abstract artist was developing a body of work that combined Asian concepts with Western Abstraction. Dr. Kim and Kim Whan-Ki soon became close friends.

Dr. Kim left for America in 1953. In 1956, Kim Whan-Ki also left Korea, settling in Paris, where he would spend the next three years expanding his knowledge of the Western art historical canon. The artist admired the work of Joan Miró, Jean Dubuffet, and particularly Pablo Picasso, whom he respected for breaking down the traditional boundaries of art. "It is thanks to Picasso that many artists can now paint difficult work without fear or apprehension," Kim Whan-Ki said (Kim W., quoted in Matthew Kim's Memoir: Modern and Contemporary Korean Artists I Have Loved, Kyonggi-do, 2016, p. 151). He returned to Seoul in 1959.

Even though the two Kims were on different continents, their friendship grew stronger. In 1963, Kim Whan-Ki decided to move from Seoul to New York. When his wife joined him the following year, Dr. Kim gave the couple the money for her airfare. In thanks, Kim Whan-Ki gifted Dr. Kim his 1959 painting, Island Under the Moonlight. The two Kims and their wives began to see more and more of each other, and as Matthew Kim's medical practice took off, he was able to acquire more of Kim Whan-Ki's paintings for his growing collection.

1971 was an important year for Kim Whan-Ki as the artist began working on what is widely regarded as his masterpiece, the large-scale painting Universe. According to fellow artist Byung Ki Kim, the two painters had visited a gallery where they saw Barnett Newman's large monochrome paintings. Where Newman had variegated his paintings with one or more vertical lines—or 'zips,' as he called them—Kim Whan- Ki filled his large canvases with dots, which signified stars. Universe was exhibited in the artist's exhibition at New York's Poindexter Gallery, after which Matthew Kim and his wife acquired the work, which became the centerpiece of their collection.

The Kims' home in New York became a gathering place for many members of the Korean art community, as the couple hosted regular dinners for their friends and family. Kim Whan-Ki was always a welcome guest and, with his gregarious laughter and mischievous sense of humor, he was often the center of attention. The Kims counted the video artist Nam June Paik, the painters Byung Ki Kim and Tschang Yeul Kim, and the sculptor Yongjin Han amongst their many friends. In addition to being a supporter of the visual arts, Dr. Kim was an accomplished baritone; and as co-founder and Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Korea Music Foundation, he was able to cultivate and support Korean musicians in New York. In addition to Universe, the Kims acquired several other paintings by Kim Whan-Ki, including Mountains and Moon, Morning Star, and 20-V-69 #94, all of which the couple later donated to the Whan-Ki Museum in Seoul to benefit the institution's support of the artist's work.

05-IV-71 #200 (UNIVERSE)
Kim Whan-Ki's monumental canvas 05-IV-71 #200 (Universe) is widely regarded to be one of the most important paintings in the artist's oeuvre. As one of the great pioneers of abstract painting in Korean modern art history, this canvas is the culmination of a lifetime spent synthesizing aesthetics and philosophy to articulate the essence of nature through art. The only diptych that the artist painted, the two canvases suggest duality - sun and moon, light and shadow, man and woman, yin and yang - embodying the contradictory yet complimentary forces that drive the world and make up the core energies of the universe. In addition, this is also the largest painting that Kim ever created, with the greatest range of blues. These deep cobalt dots are quintessential qualities of the artist's final and most accomplished creative period which spanned from 1970 to 1974. Over the past 40 years, Universe has been in the collection of Dr. Matthew Kim, a friend and important collector of the artist's work, where it has remained ever since it was acquired directly from the artist the year it was painted.

Filled with poetic symmetry and pattern, Universe embodies the transcendent qualities Kim Whan-Ki sought to capture in these late paintings, displaying the artist's technical dexterity when controlling the density of paint to achieve a magnificent feeling of infinite space and depth. It is also a notable canvas in that it is a rare example from within the artist's body of work of an abstract painting featuring a circular whorl pattern. The importance of Universe is not only evident in its aesthetic beauty but also in the significance the piece held for the artist. It is the only work that Kim Whan-Ki directly references in his diaries. While wholly immersed in preparing for his seminal 1971 exhibition at the Poindexter Gallery in New York, he wrote: "I spent all day making two stretchers…" About two weeks later he wrote: "Completion of canvas. Two canvases when put together make a picture" (Kim W., Whanki – Life and Work, Paris, 1992, p. 124).

Like many other modern Korean artists, Kim first encountered Western abstract art in Japan. Under Japanese academicism, he delved into Cubism and Fauvism, freeing his creative spirit and profoundly extending his artistic capacity under this new autonomy. Kim began his artistic investigations with varied traditional motifs and natural landscapes. As described in his poetic notation, "round sky, round jar/blue sky, white jar they are surely one pair," (Kim W., quoted in Yun Nanjie's essay "Modern Literary Painter Who Sang about Nature", Kim Whanki, Gyeonggi-do, 2012, p. 40) nature and tradition were equivalent to him in their potential to spark inspiration. Kim's philosophy that art should be drawn from nature and aim to return to nature became more and more mature, and the abstract patterns he painted during this time suggested landscapes, ripples and natural forms.

In 1956, Kim left Korea for Paris to gain direct exposure to Western art and to develop his own visual language by learning from Western masters. Ironically, his affection for Korean motifs grew stronger after arriving in Paris and he continued to explore traditional imagery and landscapes, eventually schematizing them with simplified outlines and vibrant planes of colour. During the three years that he spent as a foreigner in Paris, Kim devoted himself to the difficult question of how to embrace mainstream Western culture, while still adhering to his own experiences. In this lifelong journey of artistic and personal development, Kim consistently rooted his identity in the traditional culture and natural landscapes of his motherland, as he sought new forms of inspiration.

Kim permanently left Korea in 1963 and, after participating in the São Paulo Biennale, settled in New York. It was an exhibition of work by Adolf Gottlieb, who represented the U.S. pavilion at the Venice Biennale, that drew Kim to Manhattan. He became friendly with Gottlieb, and through him met Mark Rothko, a painter whom Kim most admired for his purist philosophy and metaphysical understanding of colour. Barnett Newman's oversized monochrome paintings were another important inspiration to the Korean artist's later work. Kim ceaselessly explored a variety of materials and accepted new influences from art and culture he encountered in New York, transforming them into unique style of his own, culminating in the creation of Universe.

It was in 1965 that Kim's signature technique of using mosaiclike dots in his work began to appear for the first time. Gradually expanding into planes arranged in cascading lines and concentric arcs across the canvas surface, in 1970 Kim first presented an abstract painting composed entirely of dots painted with a thin calligraphic brush in the manner of traditional Asian ink paintings. Universe, epitomizes the peak of both spiritual and technical maturity in Kim's 'Pointillist' works. Kim's masterful control of blurring and the variation in tonality and washes generates an infinite depth of space and scalability. Featuring a rare whorl pattern with complete circles, the mysterious and meditative ambiance created by the pulsating dots presents tranquillity and a limitless space, portraying the depth and energy of the universe.

To create works such as this, the artist had to stand for long hours and look down upon a canvas laid on a table, bending over to mark each calligraphic dot one by one, carefully controlling the paint with a thin ink brush. It was a painstakingly time-consuming and labourintensive process, which gradually damaged Kim's spine. Nonetheless, Kim couldn't bear to stop or modify his working methods, continuing to undertake this intense labour in order to continue his visual contemplation and investigations.

This painting represents the culmination of Kim's tenacity and devotion towards his art, which led him on an extremely difficult journey through Tokyo, Paris, and New York. Kim's conscious decision to explore the opulence of the colour blue is perhaps due to the immense significance the colour holds in Korean culture. Filling the dual canvases that make up 05-IV-71 #200 (Universe), blue is a colour most intimately linked with earth and virtue, emanating hope, life, integrity and spirit. In this work, it becomes a sky, a sea, and the infinite universe, resonating Kim Whan-Ki's rich emotion, painstaking passion, and memories of his homeland.

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