What is Dansaekhwa?

Korean Abstract Art - Kim Whanki and Dansaekhwa, Powerlong Museum, Shanghai
Installation view of Korean Abstract Art – Kim Whanki and Dansaekhwa with works by Chung Chang-Sup, Chung Sang-Hwa, Ha Chong-Hyun, Kim Whanki, Kwon Young-Woo, Lee Ufan and Park Seo-Bo at Powerlong Museum, Shanghai, 2018-2019
Photo: Powerlong Museum/powerlong.com & Kukje Gallery

What is Dansaekhwa?

Dansaekhwa is an art movement born in South Korea in the 1970s. The pioneers of Dansaekhwa are born between 1913 and 1936 and avoided any reference to Western realism in their works, creating primarily monochrome and minimalist paintings. Dansaekhwa has had a breath of new life, thanks to the efforts and talent of Octogenarian artists that stuck to this art style. Now, dealers, art fair organizers, museum curators and collectors can breathe a sigh of relief because what has been neglected for close to half a century has come to the public limelight. It was at a time of political strife and dictatorship1 that this painting technique sprouted. While the art had been practiced as a movement for all this time, it would not be until two years ago that the West got wind of its existence.

Lee Ufan’s role

Well, not quite, because in 2006, the leader of the movement, Lee Ufan, left Korea for Tokyo and since then his work had been exhibited at the Pace Gallery in New York and Lisson Gallery in London. It was after an auction where one of his paintings fetched a price of $140,000 that Lee would become a celebrity in the world of monochromatic art creation. Later in 2014, Lee broke his own auction record2 when he gained $2.2 million in art sales.

The rise of Dansaekhwa

Inevitably, Lee’s success saw the rise of other artists who had come to associate themselves with the Dansaekhwa movement. Many of them originated from South Korea and while they were relatively successful there, the reputation of Lee would catapult them to international fame. Over the course of the last two years when Dansaekhwa had become known, many Western art exhibitions have showcased their work. Case in point is the effort by Katharine Kostyal of the White Cube gallery who had just returned from an exhibition at the Venice Biennale that deeply impressed her, came back and persuaded a leading Dansaekhwa artist in London, Park Seo-bo, to provide her with enough works to constitute his first exhibition in London.

Months before his work was shown at the White Cube, Park would be impressed when one of his most popular collection, the Twombly-esque Ecriture paintings sold for $1.2 million. In the years following 2013, Dansaekhwa would capture the scholarly attention of writers. Joan Kee was one of those who took the time to study the work and discussion around this Korean art style as written in the University of Minnesota Press. Today shows in the United States, South Korea, China and beyond contribute to sparking interest in Dansaekhwa.

Artists – The pioneers of Dansaekhwa

  • Chung Chang-Sup (1927 – 2011)
  • Chung Sang-hwa (b. 1932)
  • Ha Chong-hyun (b. 1935)
  • Hur Hwang (b. 1943)
  • Kim Guiline (b. 1936)
  • Kim Whanki (1913-1974)
  • Kwon Young-woo (1926 – 2013)
  • Lee Dong-Youb (b. 1946)
  • Lee Ufan (b. 1936)
  • Quac In-sik (1919-1988)
  • Park Seo-bo (b. 1931)
  • Rhee Seundja (1918-2009)
  • Yun Hyong-keun (1927-2007)
  • Youn Myeung-Ro (b. 1936)

Exhibition photos: ‘Korean Abstract Art: Kim Whanki and Dansaekhwa’ at Powerlong Museum, Shanghai, 2018-2019

Korean Abstract Art – Kim Whanki and Dansaekhwa with works by Chung Chang-Sup, Chung Sang-Hwa, Ha Chong-Hyun, Kim Whanki, Kwon Young-Woo, Lee Ufan and Park Seo-Bo at Powerlong Museum, Shanghai, 2018-2019

Lee Ufan - Correspondance, 1994, stone pigment on canvas, 4 canvases á 259 x 194.5 cm
Lee Ufan – Correspondance, 1994, stone pigment on canvas, 4 canvases á 259 x 194.5 cm, Installation view: Korean Abstract Art – Kim Whanki and Dansaekhwa, Powerlong Museum, Shanghai, 2018-2019
Photo: Public Delivery

Lee Ufan - From Line, 1980, mixed media on canvas, 180 x 230 cm
Lee Ufan – From Line, 1980, mixed media on canvas, 180 x 230 cm, Installation view: Korean Abstract Art – Kim Whanki and Dansaekhwa, Powerlong Museum, Shanghai, 2018-2019
Photo: Public Delivery

Lee Ufan - From Line
Lee Ufan – From Line, Installation view: Korean Abstract Art – Kim Whanki and Dansaekhwa, Powerlong Museum, Shanghai, 2018-2019
Photo: Public Delivery

Chung Sang-Hwa - Untitled (90-5-20), 1990, acrylic on canvas, 260 x 194 cm
Chung Sang-Hwa – Untitled (90-5-20), 1990, acrylic on canvas, 260 x 194 cm, Installation view: Korean Abstract Art – Kim Whanki and Dansaekhwa, Powerlong Museum, Shanghai, 2018-2019
Photo: Public Delivery

Chung Sang-hwa
Chung Sang-Hwa, Installation view: Korean Abstract Art – Kim Whanki and Dansaekhwa, Powerlong Museum, Shanghai, 2018-2019
Photo: Public Delivery

Visitor at  ‘Korean Abstract Art: Kim Whanki and Dansaekhwa’ at Powerlong Museum, Shanghai, 2018-2019
Visitor in front of work by Chung Sang-Hwa at exhibition Korean Abstract Art – Kim Whanki and Dansaekhwa, Powerlong Museum, Shanghai, 2018-2019
Photo: Public Delivery

Park Seo-Bo
Park Seo-Bo, Installation view: Korean Abstract Art – Kim Whanki and Dansaekhwa, Powerlong Museum, Shanghai, 2018-2019
Photo: Public Delivery

Park Seo-Bo (detail)
Detail of Park Seo-Bo, Installation view: Korean Abstract Art – Kim Whanki and Dansaekhwa, Powerlong Museum, Shanghai, 2018-2019
Photo: Public Delivery

Kwon Young-Woo, Korean Abstract Art - Kim Whanki and Dansaekhwa, Powerlong Museum, Shanghai, 2018-2019 1
Kwon Young-Woo, Installation view: Korean Abstract Art – Kim Whanki and Dansaekhwa, Powerlong Museum, Shanghai, 2018-2019
Photo: Public Delivery

Works by Chung Chang-Sup (정창섭)

Chung Chang-Sup (정창섭) - Meditation No.97802, 1997, tak fiber on cotton, 162 x 130 cm
Chung Chang-Sup (정창섭) – Meditation No.97802, 1997, tak fiber on cotton, 162 x 130 cm

Chung Chang-Sup (정창섭) - Meditation No.20108, 2000, tak fiber on cotton, 37.5 x 45 cm
Chung Chang-Sup (정창섭) – Meditation No.20108, 2000, tak fiber on cotton, 37.5 x 45 cm

Chung Chang-Sup (정창섭) - Meditation No.97611, 1997, tak fiber on cotton, 91 x 116.70 cm
Chung Chang-Sup (정창섭) – Meditation No.97611, 1997, tak fiber on cotton, 91 x 116.70 cm

Works by Chung Sang-hwa (정상화)

Chung Sang-Hwa, Untitled 91-3-9 (1991), Acrylic on canvas, 162 x 130 cm
Chung Sang-Hwa (정상화) – Untitled 91-3-9, 199, Acrylic on canvas, 162 x 130 cm

Chung Sang-hwa (정상화) - Untitled 2014-3-12, 2014. Acrylic and kaolin on canvas, 162.2 x 130.3 cm
Chung Sang-hwa (정상화) – Untitled 2014-3-12, 2014, Acrylic and kaolin on canvas, 162.2 x 130.3 cm

Chung Sang-hwa (정상화) - Untitled 013-11-20, 2013. Acrylic on canvas, 162.2 x 130.3 cm
Chung Sang-hwa (정상화) – Untitled 013-11-20, 2013, acrylic on canvas, 162.2 x 130.3 cm

Works by Ha Chong-hyun (하종현)

Ha Chong-hyun (하종현) - Conjunction 16-102, 2016, Oil on hemp, 162.5 x 130.5 cm
Ha Chong-hyun (하종현) – Conjunction 16-102, 2016, Oil on hemp, 162.5 x 130.5 cm

Ha Chong-hyun (하종현) - Conjunction, 99-16 1999, oil on hemp cloth, 72.7 x 90.9 cm
Ha Chong-hyun (하종현) – Conjunction, 99-16, 1999, oil on hemp cloth, 72.7 x 90.9 cm

Ha Chong-hyun (하종현) - Work 74-06, 1974 Oil on hemp, 153.3 x 116.2 cm
Ha Chong-hyun (하종현) – Work 74-06, 1974 Oil on hemp, 153.3 x 116.2 cm

Works by Hur Hwang (허황)

Hur Hwang (허황) - Variable Consciousness, 1979-1981, Oil on canvas, 91 × 116.7 cm
Hur Hwang (허황) – Variable Consciousness, 1979-1981, Oil on canvas, 91 × 116.7 cm

Hur Hwang (허황) - Variable Consciousness, 1993, Oil on canvas, 116.7 × 91 cm
Hur Hwang (허황) – Variable Consciousness, 1993, Oil on canvas, 116.7 × 91 cm

Hur Hwang (허황) - Light of Consciousness, 2010, Mixed media on canvas, 112 × 193.9 cm
Hur Hwang (허황) – Light of Consciousness, 2010, Mixed media on canvas, 112 × 193.9 cm

Works by Kim Guiline (김기린)

Kim Guiline (김기린) - Inside, Outside, 1986, oil on canvas, 97 × 193.9 cm
Kim Guiline (김기린) – Inside, Outside, 1986, oil on canvas, 97 × 193.9 cm

Kim Guiline (김기린) - Untitled, 2000, oil on canvas, 125 x 50 cm
Kim Guiline (김기린) – Untitled, 2000, oil on canvas, 125 x 50 cm

Kim Guiline (김기린) - Outside, 1986, Oil on canvas, 160.7 x 128 cm
Kim Guiline (김기린) – Outside, 1986, Oil on canvas, 160.7 x 128 cm

Works by Kim Whanki (김환기)

Kim Whanki (김환기) - Untitled, 1970, oil on canvas, 222 x 170.5 cm
Kim Whanki (김환기) – Untitled, 1970, oil on canvas, 222 x 170.5 cm

Kim Whanki (김환기) - 25- V- 70 #173, 1970, oil on canvas, 128 x 87 cm
Kim Whanki (김환기) – 25- V- 70 #173, 1970, oil on canvas 128 x 87 cm

Kim Whanki (김환기) - 2-V-73 n.313, oil on cotton, 150 x 101.5 cm
Kim Whanki (김환기) – 2-V-73 n.313, oil on cotton, 150 x 101.5 cm

Works by Kwon Young-woo (권영우)

Kwon Young-Woo (권영우) - Untitled, 1984, gouache, chinese ink on paper, 224 x 170 cm
Kwon Young-Woo (권영우) – Untitled, 1984, gouache, chinese ink on paper, 224 x 170 cm

Kwon Young-Woo (권영우) - Untitled, 1982, korean paper, 157.0 x 122.0cm
Kwon Young-Woo (권영우) – Untitled, 1982, korean paper, 157.0 x 122.0cm

Kwon Young-Woo (권영우) - Untitled c. 1980s Korean paper 100 x 80.5 cm
Kwon Young-Woo (권영우) – Untitled, ca. 1980s, Korean paper, 100 x 80.5 cm

Works by Lee Dong-Youb (이동엽)

Lee Dong-Youb (이동엽) - Interspace, 2000-2008, oil on canvas, 91 x 116.8 cm
Lee Dong-Youb (이동엽) – Interspace, 2000-2008, oil on canvas, 91 x 116.8 cm

Lee Dong-Youb (이동엽) - Untitled, 1988, oil on canvas, 72.5 x 60.5 cm
Lee Dong-Youb (이동엽) – Untitled, 1988, oil on canvas, 72.5 x 60.5 cm

Lee Dong-Youb (이동엽) - SITUATION B, 1974, oil on canvas, 100 x 80 cm
Lee Dong-Youb (이동엽) – SITUATION B, 1974, oil on canvas, 100 x 80 cm

Works by Lee Ufan (이우환)

Lee Ufan (이우환) - From Line (No. 780103), 1978, Pigment Suspended in Glue on Canvas, 80 x 100 cm
Lee Ufan (이우환) – From Line (No. 780103), 1978, Pigment Suspended in Glue on Canvas, 80 x 100 cm

Lee Ufan (이우환) - With Winds (1989) Mineral pigment, oil on canvas, 194.2 x 259 cm
Lee Ufan (이우환) – With Winds (1989), Mineral pigment, oil on canvas, 194.2 x 259 cm

Lee Ufan (이우환) - Correspondence, 2005, oil and stone 
pigment on canvas, 218.4 x 290.1 cm
Lee Ufan (이우환) – Correspondence, 2005, oil and stone pigment on canvas, 218.4 x 290.1 cm

Works by Quac In-sik (곽인식)

Quac In-sik 곽인식 - Untitled, ink on paper, 50 x 62.5 cm
Quac In-sik 곽인식 – Untitled, 1980, colored ink on Japanese paper mounted on canvas, 208 x 116 cm

Quac In-sik 곽인식 - Untitled, 1980, colored ink on Japanese paper mounted on canvas, 208 x 116 cm
Quac In-sik 곽인식 – Untitled, 1980, colored ink on Japanese paper mounted on canvas, 208 x 116 cm

Quac In-sik 곽인식 - Untitled, colored ink on Japanese paper mounted on canvas, 94 x 123.5 cm
Quac In-sik 곽인식 – Untitled, 1980, colored ink on Japanese paper mounted on canvas, 208 x 116 cm

Works by Park Seo-bo (박서보)

Park Seo-Bo (박서보) - Ecriture No.000508, 2000, Mixed media with Korean paper on canvas
Park Seo-Bo (박서보) – Ecriture No.000508, 2000, Mixed media with Korean paper on canvas

Park Seo-Bo (박서보) - Ecriture No.27-77, 1977, Oil and pencil on canvas
Park Seo-Bo (박서보) – Ecriture No.27-77, 1977, Oil and pencil on canvas

Park Seo-Bo (박서보) - Ecriture No. 89-79-82-83, 1983, pencil and oil on cloth, 194,5 x 300 cm
Park Seo-Bo (박서보) – Ecriture No. 89-79-82-83, 1983, pencil and oil on cloth, 194,5 x 300 cm

Works by Rhee Seundja (이성자)

Rhee Seundja (이성자) - 1969, acrylic on canvas, 73 x 59,6 cm,
Rhee Seundja (이성자) – 1969, acrylic on canvas, 73 x 59.6 cm

Rhee Seundja (이성자) - Frémissantes Natures (Nature Trembles), 1965, oil on canvas, 80,7 x 60 cm
Rhee Seundja (이성자) – Frémissantes Natures (Nature Trembles), 1965, oil on canvas, 80.7 x 60 cm

Rhee Seundja (이성자) - Les étoiles à l'aube (Stars at Dawn), 1962, oil on canvas, 91 x 73 cm
Rhee Seundja (이성자) – Les étoiles à l'aube (Stars at Dawn), 1962, oil on canvas, 91 x 73 cm

Works by Youn Myeung-Ro (윤명로)

Youn Myeung-Ro (윤명로) - Crack 74-1014, 1974, acrylic and mixed media on linen
Youn Myeung-Ro (윤명로) – Crack 74-1014, 1974, acrylic and mixed media on linen, 115 x 130 cm

Youn Myeung-Ro (윤명로) - Traces of the Spirit MXIV-12, 2014, acrylic on linen, 194x 259 cm
Youn Myeung-Ro (윤명로) – Winter into Spring MXIV-1220, 2014, acrylic on linen, 162 x 130 cm

Youn Myeung-Ro (윤명로) - Winter into Spring MXIV-1220, 2014, acrylic on linen, 162 x 130 cm
Youn Myeung-Ro (윤명로) – Winter into Spring MXIV-1220, 2014, acrylic on linen, 162 x 130 cm

Works by Yun Hyong-keun (윤형근)

Yun Hyong-keun (윤형근) - Umber-Blue, 1975, oil on hempen-cloth, 100,3 x 73 cm
Yun Hyong-keun (윤형근) – Umber-Blue, 1975, oil on hempen-cloth, 100.3 x 73 cm

Yun Hyong-keun (윤형근) - Umber-Blue, 1978, oil on cotton, 175,5 x 132,3 cm
Yun Hyong-keun (윤형근) – Umber-Blue, 1978, oil on cotton, 175.5 x 132.3 cm

Yun Hyong-keun (윤형근) - Umber, 1988 - 1989, oil on linen, 205 x 333,5 cm
Yun Hyong-keun (윤형근) – Umber, 1988 – 1989, oil on linen, 205 x 333.5 cm

All images by the artists unless otherwise noted.

The books about Dansaekhwa

Related works

Related readings

  1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_South_Korea#Fourth_Republic_1972%E2%80%931979
  2. http://www.sothebys.com/en/auctions/ecatalogue/2014/contemporary-art-evening-sale-n09221/lot.61.html
  3. https://www.upress.umn.edu/book-division/books/contemporary-korean-art
  4. https://davidzwirnerbooks.com/product/the-art-of-dansaekhwa
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