Long disputed Artwork, Beautiful Woman, Spotlighted Once Again
Edit by. Grace Shin | Published. 2017.07.31 13:25 | Count : 660
More than 25 years of fake or real controversy
In 1991 March, an artwork painted in 1977 was claimed to be fake by its own painter.
Chun Kyung Ja is a prominent female South Korean Painter famous for her original and vivid colorful painting depicting female figures, flowers, and landscapes. The controversy over whether Mrs. Chun Kyung-Ja’s Beautiful Woman is real or fake is still going on. Mrs. Chun clearly claimed that the displayed painting is fake; however, the Galleries Association of Korea and Korean Art Circles conducted their own investigation and artistic analysis and concluded that it was, in fact, real Chun’s artwork. National Museum of Modern and Contemporary (MMCA), where the painting is currently exhibited, insisted that the painting is real and started their own investigation. After 8 years of continuous investigation and debate, a whistle blower confessed that he was the one who painted the fake Beautiful Woman. Even with his confession, MMCA retorts that the painting is real by questioning the forger’s reliability and evidence that Korean Prosecutors were involved in imposing pressure on the whistle blower to revoke his testimony.
In 2015, when Mrs. Chun passed away, the attempt to render authenticity began to accelerate. Chun’s daughter Jung-Hee Kim, a professor of art at Montgomery College, sued MMCA and the incumbent Director Bartomeu Mari for defamation of the artist and infringement of copyright.
“Beautiful Woman” is currently displayed on the second floor of Gwacheon’s MMCA

After the death of the artist, the bereaved family contacted a renowned French company named Lumiere Technology for a scientific analysis of Beautiful Woman. Known for its credibility, Lumiere Technology asserted that the possibility of the painting to be real is 0.0002 percent. However, Seoul Central District Prosecutor's Office refuted this by determining that the company did not comprehensively analyze the painting.

One of multiple reasons that backs up the forgery is secret behind the philtrum. In Chun’s work created during the 1970s and 80s, none of the female figures in her drawing has philtrum. Beautiful Woman is the only piece that contains philtrum as female face component. Can we call this a mistake of the forger? The controversy continues.

“Beautiful Woman” shows Philtrum between the female figure’s nose and lips

A visit to the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary

In order to see this hotly controversial painting, I visited Gwacheon MMCA and saw the painting myself. The painting is currently on exhibition on the 2nd floor with many other contemporary paintings. As Beautiful Women is clearly the most famous and attention attracting artwork in the gallery, it is displayed in a special room with highly informative resources along with it. MMCA provides specific details of the painting, chronologically aligning the controversial events. It seemed like the gallery is fully aware of the public opinion.
My visit to the MMCA


Inside MMCA

I believe the only person that can end this controversy is the artist herself. The most peculiar aspect of this preposterous event is that although the author continuously insisted the forgery during her pre-humous period, there are other interest groups that need this work to be authentic in an unavoidable manner. The controversy is nowhere close to a settlement, at least in the near future.


Grace Shin
12th Grade
Cheongna Dalton School

Grace Shin  student_reporter@dherald.com

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