Priceless Painting Quietly Auctioned Off in Hong Kong Warehouse

Eight days prior, a different work by the same artist had sold for $2.6 million at Sotheby’s

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2:12 PM HKT, Thu October 19, 2023 1 mins read

Award-winning restaurant group Le Comptoir abruptly shuttered their 2-Star Michelin restaurant, Écriture, leaving millions owed in unpaid rent and bills. To resolve the debt, the Hong Kong District Court seized the restaurant’s assets and auctioned them off.

One notable item was a famous painting from the ‘Écriture’ series by renowned Korean artist Park Seo-bo. Ironically, the restaurant was named after this very series.

On September 27, Judge Harold Leong allowed the auction to proceed, dismissing notices that claimed the items were on loan from a company called Bunch of Art, partially owned by Écriture’s manager Vivien Roussie.

The auction itself was unconventional - with only a handwritten inventory of 178 cryptically described items. Held in an industrial building in Kowloon, the painting was bundled with unrelated items like cookware and grease extractors. The opening bid for each item was just HK$8,000 (around US$1,022).

Park Seo-bo was a leading figure of South Korea’s ‘dansaekhwa’ movement

The painting was briefly described as “one white wooden-framed picture (about 3 meters long and 1.8 meters tall, theme: not seen).” With such a vague description, it did not seem as valuable as other items on auction, which included hundreds of bottles of fine French wine. However, some recognized its immense worth.

As Bunch of Art had no rights to the painting, Roussie bid for it himself. After an intense bidding war with a local Chinese “mystery man” who claimed he had no knowledge of the piece’s value, Roussie eventually won with a bid of HK$1.52 million.

Sadly, Park Seo-bo passed away the day after the undignified auction, following a long battle with illness. The 91-year-old artist was one of the leading figures of South Korea’s post-war dansaekhwa movement. Naturally, the art world flooded with tributes, as well as criticism of the treatment of his artwork in Hong Kong.

It remains to be seen if this painting will reappear on the global art auction circuit in the future. For now, its fate is as mysterious as its brief auction description.

Images via Écriture, Wikimedia Commons

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