When chairman of the Samsung Group – Lee Kun-hee – passed away last October at the age of 78, he left behind an impressive $27 billion fortune, as well as an equally-impressive 23,000-piece art collection. According to South Korean Minister of Culture, Sports, & Tourism – Hwang Hee – the latter will soon be housed within its very own museum (honouring the memory of Lee Kun-hee himself).
“There is a need to build a new art hall to better manage the donated art collection and study [it],” Hwang announced at a press conference.
“The aim is to share the donator’s collection and his philosophy behind collecting the artwork with the wider public.”
The museum – which has tentatively been dubbed the Lee Kun-hee Donation Hall – has been allocated a ₩100 billion (AU$117 million) budget. A sizable cost, no doubt, but exceedingly necessary when you consider the artwork collection itself is worth $3.6 billion. The top two candidates for its location are where the National Museum of Korea in Yongsan-gu and the National Museum of Modern & Contemporary Art currently resides.
As for what’s featured in the Lee Kun-hee art collection, headlining works include pieces from the likes of Pablo Picasso, Andy Warhol, Jean-Michel Basquiat, and plenty of other familiar names (hence why its worth a fortune).
Initially, Kun-hee’s son Lee Jae-yong and widow Hong Ra-hee made an effort to donate the majority of the collected artworks across several state-owned institutions, with the intention to offset some of the ₩12.5 trillion (AU$14.6 billion) inheritance tax bill they’d copped in the wake of their family patriarch’s passing. By the sounds of Minister Hwang Hee’s plans, however, it appears they’ve been overruled in favour of consolidation.[The ministry] expects to strengthen Korea’s brand identity as a cultural powerhouse through the construction of the new establishment. We will do our best while communicating with the art scene and experts.”
According to ArtNet, artworks already distributed among regional museums will remain in place as per the donors’ wishes. Both the National Museum of Korea and the Museum of Modern & Contemporary Art are set to exhibit works from the Lee Collection later this month, while a traveling showcase is being planned for late 2022.