Gochujar - Korean Art You Should Know - 05.2023

Kim Whanki 김환기

Song of Eternity, 영원의 노래

Oil on Canvas, 162.4 x 130.1 cm, 1957

About The Art

Kim Whanki's "Song of Eternity" is an iconic painting famous for its striking use of color and composition. It is widely regarded as one of Kim Whanki's most famous works, showcasing his unique fusion of traditional Korean aesthetics with Western modernism.

The oil painting on canvas, created in 1964, features a circular shape at the center, reminiscent of the Korean traditional symbol of the yin and yang. The bold colors surrounding the circle, including blue, green, yellow, and red, create a powerful visual impact and convey a sense of movement and dynamism.

The circular shape symbolizes the universe and the eternal cycle of life and death. The painting's abstract style, bold colors, and innovative use of traditional Korean motifs have inspired many contemporary artists and continue to captivate audiences around the world.

Kim Whanki's "Song of Eternity" has been featured in numerous exhibitions and is regarded as a masterpiece of Korean modern art. Its abstract style and innovative use of traditional Korean motifs have made it a timeless inspiration for many artists.

About the Artist

Kim Whanki 김환기 (1913-1974) was a Korean abstract artist who played a crucial role in the development of Korean modern art. He is widely regarded as one of the pioneers of abstract art in Korea. He is known for his unique fusion of traditional Korean motifs and colors with Western modernism.

Life Details

Birthtown: Sinan-gun (South Jeolla Province)
Alive or Deceased?: Deceased at age 61
Reason for passing: Failed to recover from spinal surgery (developed back issues from painstaking, labour-intensive way of painting)
Married?: Divorced 1st wife and re-married to Byun Dong Rim (changed to Kim Hyang An)

Kim belongs to the first generation of Korean Abstract artists, mixing oriental concepts and ideals with abstraction.

During his early years, Kim Whanki's style was influenced by a variety of sources, including his deep affection for Korean arts & culture and Western art trends such as Cubism and Constructivism.

Alley 거리, 1948, 55 x 38 cm

Alley 거리, 1948, oil on canvas 55 x 38 cm

His early works expressed Korea through semi-abstraction 

Alley 거리, 1948, 55 x 38 cm

Back Home, 귀로, 1950, oil on cavas, 97 x 79cm

Kim Whanki - Universe '우주'

Jar & Plum Blossom, 매화와 항아리, 1957, 55 x 37 cm 

In his later years, and after moving to New York, Kim Hwanki's style became more refined and minimalistic, focusing on a more universal and broader consensus - beyond Korean ethnicity.

Kim Whanki - Universe '우주'

10-VIII-70 #185, 1970, Oil on Cotton, 292 x 216 cm

This shift in his artistic approach reflected his desire to connect with a broader audience and explore the deeper mysteries of existence.

Kim Whanki - Universe '우주'

Universe 5-IV-71 #200, Oil on Cotton, 254x254 cm

Despite passing away in 1974, Kim Whanki's art continues to inspire and influence contemporary Korean art. His art reflects his personal experiences and the social and political upheavals of his time, making him an important figure in Korean art history and cultural identity.

Kim Whanki's legacy is a testament to the power of art to transcend cultural boundaries and reflect the complexity of history and identity. His unique fusion of traditional Korean aesthetics with Western modernism has made a lasting impact on the development of modern Korean art, and his innovative use of color and composition continues to inspire and captivate audiences around the world.

How much is Kim Whanki's art worth?

Some of Kim Whanki's paintings have sold for millions of dollars in recent years, making him one of the most expensive Korean artists in the world. For example, in November 2019, when his 1971 diptych, "Universe 5-IV-71 #200," fetched HK$88 million ($11 million USD) at Christie's Hong Kong ― making history as one of the most expensive Korean work of art ever auctioned.

The prices of Kim Whanki's art can vary greatly depending on various factors, such as the rarity and condition of the artwork, the medium used, the size, the subject matter, and the auction house or gallery where the artwork is being sold.

Universe 5-IV-71 #200

However, not all of Kim Whanki's artworks sell for such high prices, and some can be purchased for less depending on the factors mentioned above. 

Where can I see his art? 

Whanki Museum in Seoul  (link

Related Posts

Leave a comment