Some say that the artworld is the most unregulated industry next to that of the illegal drugs trade. The controversial Hong Song-won, owner of Seoul’s Gallery Seomi, has been arrested over suspicions that she sold artworks ordered to be seized by a Seoul court, the Korea Times reports.
A Seoul court ordered the confiscation of 330 works of art last April. The works were owned by Tongyang Group chairman Hyun Jae-hyun and his wife Lee Hae-kyung, and were to be confiscated as part of a ruling on charges of embezzlement, and tax evasion.
The prosecution raided a storage unit belonging to Lee, which contained dozens of paintings and sculptures, and also found evidence linking the artworks to Hong last June. Unfortunately the buyers of these works remain unknown to the authorities. The situation is not Hong’s first brush with the Chinese authorities; the gallerist has gained an unsavoury reputation for In the last few years, for secretly laundering money from the slush funds of several South Korean conglomerates’ bosses.
It is said – that between December 2013 and March 2014 – Hong sold up to 10 pieces from the soon-to-be confiscated collection. Prosecutors have stated that Lee asked Hong to dispose of the works to evade the court ruling. Hong has also been accused of keeping the $1.45 million of the proceeds. On the prosecution’s list of works that Hong allegedly sold; includes pieces by Nam June Paik and Claes Oldenburg.
Lee and her family are believed to have purchased a grand total of 138 paintings, that are believed to be collectively worth $136 million. They did so through Gallery Seomi between 2001 and 2008. Among the items are important pieces by artists including Andy Warhol and Jeff Koons, according to the Korea Times.
However; in 2013 Hong was investigated over suspicion of aiding CJ Group chairman Lee Jae-hyun by forging legal papers to increase the selling price of artworks. Among the items are important pieces by artists including Andy Warhol and Jeff Koons, reported in the Korea Times.
In fact Hong has been barely out of the news; he hit the headlines in 2008, when the director of the Leeum Samsung Museum of Art, Hong Ra-heeand – wife of Samsung Group chairman Lee Kun-Hee – was accused of purchasing Roy Lichtenstein’s painting ‘Happy Tears’ (1967) among others, through Gallery Seomi, apparently with the use of a slush fund. Three years later, Hong filed a lawsuit against the Samsung Foundation of Culture; after the dealer claimed that the foundation only paid $23 million of an outstanding $75 million bill that was related to 14 works bought between August 2009 and February 2010. But later dropped the case.
Eventually in 2011; Hong was given a suspended two-and-half-year jail term after aiding the chairman of the company Orion Group to hide illegal funds through the purchase of art. The dealer has also been involved in two other money-laundering cases; and eventually in 2011; Hong was given a suspended two-and-half-year jail term after aiding the chairman of the company Orion Group to hide illegal funds through the purchase of art.