Blue House purchases work by noted painter

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Blue House purchases work by noted painter

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It may hang over the heads of Korea’s political leaders, but it’s not debt, war or polling numbers. Instead, it’s a massive abstract oil painting, 7 meters (23 feet) long and 2.8 meters high, that hangs in Inwang Hall on the second floor of the Blue House.
The painting depicts, in its abstract way, the scenery of Tongyeong Harbor, South Gyeongsang province, an archipelago off the southern coast.
The Blue House bought the work, painted by Jun Hyuk-lim, for a paltry 150 million won ($159,000). That’s far less than the appraisal for the painting made by the National Museum of Contemporary Art, which said a reasonable price would be closer to 230 million won.
However, Mr. Jun, 91, said he’d be glad to receive only 150 million won if the Blue House bought the piece. It took three months for Mr. Jun to complete the painting upon receiving the commission by the Blue House.
That request came all the way from the top: President Roh Moo-hyun personally ordered the painting. Mr. Roh reportedly found an interest in art after meetings with foreign political leaders such as U.S. President George W. Bush. He found that the leaders liked to show off their collections of paintings before discussing diplomatic issues.
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Mr. Roh’s relationship with Mr. Jun started out after the president saw a TV news report on Mr. Jun’s exhibition in early November. After seeing a painting of Korea’s southern coast, which is not far from his hometown of Gimhae, South Gyeongsang province, Mr. Roh decided that Mr. Jun’s work was just what he had been looking for. That weekend, Mr. Roh visited the opening ceremony of Mr. Jun’s exhibition at the Ie-young Contemporary Art Museum in Yongin, Gyeonggi province.
Mr. Roh’s arrival was completely unexpected; the museum guard, apparently not recognizing the president’s limousine, refused to permit the vehicle entry, and the president had to walk from the front gate. But Mr. Roh didn’t seem to mind ― he wandered about the exhibition leading Mr. Jun by the wrist for over an hour.
“Picasso was known as an energetic painter, but he can’t be compared to your energy,” Mr. Roh reportedly told the artist. “You’re still painting at the age of 91. Also, Picasso’s works may be great, but your paintings that depict the beautiful landscape of Korea are no less great. Like the title of the exhibition, ‘90, still young,’ I hope you keep painting and live a long time.”
Then came the request to buy the painting.
Initially, the Blue House considered buying the same painting on display at the exhibition, but later asked Mr. Jun to paint a new one to fit Inwang Hall. The painting was hung in the Blue House on March 25.
Mr. Jun is one of the most renowned painters in Korea. The world he paints is based on his hometown of Tongyeong (currently called Chungmu) and traditional folk painting.
“President Roh is very interested in the Tongyeong Harbor painting. He visits Inwang Hall just to see it,” said Jeong Sang-mun, a presidential secretary.


by Cho Woo-suk
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