Hyung Koo Kang - New Now London Thursday, July 13, 2023 | Phillips
  • “I am often associated with the hyper-realist because of the techniques I employ in my work, but I am not a hyper-realist. In fact, unlike hyper-realist artists who tend to coldly study the surface of objects, I am very much inclined to investigate the inside.."
    —Kang Hyung Ko

    Korean artist Hyung Koo Kang creates large-scale portraits of popular figures which absorb the viewer in their meticulous detail and intimacy. Resuscitating historic icons such as Marilyn Monroe, Princess Diana, Albert Einstein, and Leonardo da Vinci through the medium of paint, Kang exceeds the genre of hyper-realism by capturing the inner character of these individuals. Each delineated strand of hair, wrinkle, or shadow all converge to create the astonishing likeness of a living self which not only breathes but thinks and feels.


    Like in most of his works, Pele focuses on the visage of the late football legend, cropping out all else but his facial features which are composed against a monochromatic, non-representative background. Larger than life and vividly detailed, his face towers over us, resulting in a startlingly intimate viewing, one which demonstrates how Kang invigorates his figures with their discernible personalities. Pele’s raised, wrinkled brow instantly evokes the simultaneous qualities of gravitas, genius and playfulness which marked his unstoppable career and legacy as the best player of all time. In the artist’s signature style, the eyes are the focal point of the portrait and act as the gateway between the viewer and the canvas. Rendered aqueous with astonishing lifelikeness, they captivate the viewer, resulting in a penetratingly visceral experience in which the observer becomes the observed. In this way, Kang’s work makes us consider ourselves as much as the figures he portrays.


    One of the most acclaimed hyperrealist painters of our time, Kang graduated with a B.F.A in painting from Choon-Ang University, Seoul. Since then, he has exhibited at the Singapore Art Museum; Youngeun Museum of Contemporary Art, Gwangju; Seoul Museum of Art; and the Saatchi Gallery, London; among others. His work can be found in the Frank Cohen Collection, Seoul; Jimmy Carter Centre, Atlanta; and the Gwangju Art Museum, Korea.

    • Provenance

      Arario Gallery, Seoul​
      Private Collection
      Sotheby's, London, 2 July 2008, lot 424
      Acquired at the above sale by the present owner

    • Exhibited

      Seoul, Arario Gallery, Hyung Koo Kang: The Gaze, 5 June - 26 August 2007, p. 70 (illustrated, p. 71)



signed 'Hyung Koo Kang [in Korean]' lower left
oil on canvas
259.3 x 193.8 cm (102 1/8 x 76 1/4 in.)
Painted in 1997.

Full Cataloguing

£15,000 - 20,000 

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Charlotte Gibbs
Associate Specialist, Head of New Now
+44 20 7901 7993

New Now

London Auction 13 July 2023