New gallery rules to be introduced: Culture ministry to introduce strict laws to catch forgeries in 2017

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New gallery rules to be introduced: Culture ministry to introduce strict laws to catch forgeries in 2017

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A file photo of last year’s Korean International Art Fair. The government hopes to enhance the transparency of art transactions in Korea. [JOONGANG ILBO]

The Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism announced Thursday a new law that will strengthen requirements for art galleries, auction houses and individual art dealers to operate in hopes of increasing transparency in the art market.

This comes amid a series of high-profile forgery scandals in recent years in which the authenticity of famous Korean paintings sold was questioned.

Under the new law, art galleries will be required to register their businesses and the government will only accept the registration of art galleries with exhibition facilities and a list of artists that they foster and manage.

Auction houses will have to get approval from the government, while individual art dealers will have to report their operations to the government. If any of these entities are found to be involved in selling artwork whose authenticity is being questioned, their operating license could get canceled for a time period.

The culture ministry plans to put the law into effect in the latter part of next year. But in order to help art galleries in Korea improve themselves to meet the requirements, it will allow two-year grace period, meaning that the new rule will not affect some institutions until the latter part of 2019.

In addition, the new regulation will make it obligatory for art galleries, auction houses and individual art dealers to create and manage an information database of artworks they’ve sold. However, the ministry decided to make it optional whether or not to include the information about the buyer, concerned that it could discourage transactions in the Korean art market.

Next year, the government will also launch an institution in charge of assessing an artwork’s authenticity.

Shin Eun-hyang, a director of the ministry’s visual arts and design division, told reporters at the press briefing in Seoul that there are not many professionals that can appraise an artwork’s authenticity in Korea, and the launch of the institution is hoped to improve that.

Currently, an appraisal center operated by the Galleries Association of Korea has largely been in charge of determining an artwork’s authenticity, but as it’s operated privately, it has often been embroiled in feuds and its credibility has been questioned. And when a feud between the seller of an artwork and the appraisal center operated by the Galleries Association of Korea over an artwork’s authenticity is unsettled, they often send the artwork to the state-run National Forensic Service.

While critics argue that the government’s increased control and monitoring could further shrink the art market, the officials argued that the lack of transparency and forgery scandals are discouraging factors in the industry that need to be addressed.

In 2007, claims emerged that “Washing Place” by Park Soo-keun (1914-65), sold in a May 2007 auction organized by Seoul Auction, could be a forgery, while earlier this year, “Beautiful Woman” by Chun Kyung-ja (1924-2015) and 13 pieces by Lee Ufan also came under suspicion. None of the incidents have been solved yet.

BY KIM HYUNG-EUN [hkim@joongang.co.kr]
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