Is trusting an artist pathetic?Since artist Chun Kyung-ja has passed away, “Beautiful Woman” could be reappraised for authenticity. On Nov. 5, National Assembly vice speaker Lee Seok-hyun made a formal request to the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, based on the fact that Chun had said the painting was not hers, and forger Kwon Chun-sik claimed to have painted the controversial piece. So Lee argues that the museum should reconsider the findings of the National Forensic Service that “Beautiful Woman” was genuine.
Art critic Jeong Jun-mo claims that it is genuine. An anthology of Chun published in 1990, a year before the controversy, included “Beautiful Woman,” and Chun never argued with it when she must have been involved in the publication process, Jeong says. In addition, Kwon said he forged the painting in 1984, but the museum actually acquired it in 1980. Lately, Kwon has changed his position and claimed he had painted it in the late ’70s. But the painting he said he used as a reference was actually painted in 1981.
While the two sides have different arguments, they both want the truth. Opinions online mostly focus on the position that the artist’s words should be trusted, and ignoring her claim is pathetic and backward. But let’s look at an example from another country.
In 1995, the New York Supreme Court ruled that French painter Balthus’ painting “Colette in Profile” was authentic when the painter fervently denied that he had created the work. The painting was included in the catalogue of the 1980 Venice Biennale, which Balthus had reviewed and approved. He had also previously claimed that certain works were not his when he was not happy with the dealers or galleries that sold his paintings.
There have also been cases of artists denying the authenticity of their own works when they were not satisfied with the quality or wanted to punish a collector obsessed with material value. Pablo Picasso was one of them. One day, an owner of one of his unsigned pieces brought it to Picasso and asked him to sign the painting. Picasso instantly noticed that it was one of his creations. But he refused to sign it and said, “I can paint false Picassos just as well as anybody."
I don’t mean to say that Chun is such a case. It is possible that “Beautiful Woman” was forged. But the possibility of authenticity also cannot be completely ruled out, just as in the Balthus case. Not fully trusting the words of the artist is not pathetic and backward. This may be a chance to clarify the truth.
The author is the cultural news editor of the Korea JoongAng Daily. JoongAng Ilbo, Nov. 9, Page 32
by MOON SO-YOUNG