In an exclusive exhibition held at Boathouse in Ampang last month, Aureo Gallery presented Kim Il Tae’s new 50 Golden Finites collection, featuring artworks made out of the purest, oldest and most precious metal in the world: gold.
The South Korean artist, who has garnered a reputation for painting with 24-karat gold, has dedicated over a decade of his life to masterfully manipulating the medium — melding pure gold with natural oils — and perfecting his technique. The result is a gold paint that presses well onto the canvas without cracking or fading, and gilded masterpieces that are truly one of a kind.
Guests and members of the media were welcomed into the venue’s glasshouse, which displayed some of Kim’s most beloved art pieces, such as Golden Horse and Tree of Abundance. They chiefly portray Oriental symbols such as gallant horses, legendary dragons and blooming flowers — signifying power, beauty, opulence and good luck. Global camera manufacturer Leica and Mercedes-Benz dealer Hap Seng Star were also present at the event to show their support, offering photography workshops and test drives of the new EQA. However, the main event was held at the adjacent dome, where six of Kim’s largest works were hung.
At the unveiling, Aureo Gallery founder Serena Chiam shared that the exquisite paintings were not only intended to captivate prominent art collectors, but also those who are looking to diversify their investment portfolio. Valued at up to US$2 million each, Kim’s larger pieces — including The Last Supper, Wealth Garden and Eight Golden Dragons I — have the potential to go beyond admiration.
“I was constantly exploring alternative options for my clients to invest in,” said Chiam, who is a former financial adviser. On a trip to South Korea in 2013, she stumbled upon one of Kim’s artworks, fell in love with it and bought it promptly after realising its intrinsic value. “When I first saw Kim’s gold art, it struck my mind that it wasn’t just an alternative asset, but also a unique one as there aren’t any other artists who paint with 24-karat gold.”
She established Aureo Gallery a few years later and became the sole international representative of Kim’s gold-painted artworks.
In terms of market response, Chiam said fine art in Malaysia is still niche. “In the beginning, it was tough for me to sell the gold art, or even the idea to my clients.
“A lot of work has to be done, from providing valid product information and educating on alternative investments to increasing product exposure and building public confidence,” said Chiam, but she remains optimistic. News of Kim’s retirement means there will be a scarcity in his works, which may drive value even higher.
Although Kim was unable to attend the unveiling, the artist expresses his sentiments on taking the unconventional — not to mention risky — route of leaving a successful real estate job behind for the world of gilded art. “It took several years of trial and error for it to meet my expectations,” he says in an email interview. “But I never regretted becoming an artist. I hope to be remembered by art collectors and the footprints I leave on the sand of time even after I’ve stopped painting.”
In conjunction with 50 Golden Finites, the art gallery also launched the Aureo Empowerment Movement (AEM), a charity commitment that aims to uplift and empower women, children and the underprivileged. Through the sale of selected paintings, a portion of the proceeds will be donated to organisations dedicated to aiding vulnerable communities, including Fugee School, Breast Cancer Welfare Association Malaysia and A-HEART.
For more information on the '50 Golden Finites', see here.