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(LEAD) Two rare Buddhist treasures fail to sell at high-profile auction

Art/Culture 19:36 May 27, 2020

(ATTN: UPDATES with more details at bottom; ADDS photo)

SEOUL, May 27 (Yonhap) -- High-profile auctions of two ancient Buddhist treasures in Seoul on Wednesday failed to attract any bidders.

The auctions of Gilt-bronze Standing Buddha and Gilt-bronze Standing Bodhisattva, both owned by Kansong Art Museum, were held at the K Auction headquarters in southern Seoul. Bidding began at 1.5 billion won (US$1.23 million) each but ended with zero bids.

Gilt-bronze Standing Buddha, dating back to the middle of the 7th century during the period of Unified Silla (668-918), was designated as South Korea's Treasure No. 284 in 1963. Standing in an imposing posture, its height reaches 38 centimeters, larger than any other gilt-bronze Buddhist statue manufactured during the Silla period.

An auctioneer presents Gilt-bronze Standing Bodhisattva, which was made between the 6th and 7th centuries during the Silla period, at K Auction in southern Seoul on May 27, 2020. (Yonhap)

Gilt-bronze Standing Bodhisattva, which was made between the 6th and 7th centuries during the Silla period, was designated as Treasure No. 285 in 1963. The 19-cm-high statue was discovered in Geochang, southeast South Korea.

Kansong Art Museum was founded by Korean businessman Jeon Hyeong-pil (1906-1962) in 1938, initially with the name Bohwagak, during the Japanese occupation of the Korean Peninsula.

Wednesday was the first time that the Seoul-based private museum had put up part of its collection for auction. The auction plan reportedly came due to the museum's financial hardship.

An auctioneer presents Gilt-bronze Standing Buddha, which dates back to the middle of the 7th century during the period of Unified Silla (668-918), at K Auction in southern Seoul on May 27, 2020. (Yonhap)

Amid concerns of overseas purchases, some cultural heritage experts have called for the National Museum of Korea (NMK) to use state coffers to buy and preserve the two treasures at home.

NMK representatives reportedly reached out to Kansong for a private sale, but the latter insisted on holding a public auction to respect potential bidders.

Observers predict that the Kansong museum will put the items, along with other treasures in its possession, back on auction in the near future.

This composite file photo shows Gilt-bronze Standing Bodhisattva (L) and Gilt-bronze Standing Buddha, two high-value ancient statues owned by Kansong Art Museum in Seoul. (Yonhap)

odissy@yna.co.kr
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