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Museum head vows to prove women can curate with the best

Chung Hyung-Min announces NMOCA will go through overall renovations through 2013

Chung Hyung-Min, newly appointed director of National Museum of Contemporary Art, said that she is happy to see that women are taking powerful positions in the art scene and thus generating public interest in it.

Now she said she will take this opportunity to prove something

“I feel a heavy responsibility for taking the job at a time when the museum is doubling its size. I will put emphasis on expanding the collections, organizing exhibitions and programs and developing human resources to fill the enlarged NMOCA,” said Chung at a press conference on Tuesday, the first since her inauguration last month.

In addition to Chung at NMOCA, directors of the National Museum of Korea and Seoul Museum of Art ― Kim Young-na and Kim Hong-hee, respectively ― are both women. In the private sector, female leaders Hong Ra-hee and Pyo Mi-seon are heading Leeum, Samsung Museum of Art and the Galleries Association of Korea as well.

Also, most gallery owners are women.

Chung started the post on Jan. 19. Since 1994, she has taught Asian art at Seoul National University and served as the director of the university’s Museum of Art from 2006 to 2012. She received a Ph.D. in art history at Columbia University.

The 61-year-old director pointed out that despite the efforts of previous chiefs, NMOCA’s collections are “toothless” in some aspects and that she will try to fill the gaps to make NMOCA an internationally renowned art museum.

“Its collection should be of very high level for the museum to be globalized. We will concentrate on grasping what age and what artists the collection lacks and fill in the shortages so that NMOCA’s collection can show the overall flow of Korea’s art history. We will also develop new exhibition forms and education programs for family visitors, taking into consideration the trends in overseas museums,” said Chung. 
Chung Hyung-Min speaks at a press conference on Tuesday at the National Museum of Contemporary Art, Deoksugung, in central Seoul. (Yonhap News)
Chung Hyung-Min speaks at a press conference on Tuesday at the National Museum of Contemporary Art, Deoksugung, in central Seoul. (Yonhap News)

She added that she expects that UUL, the Seoul branch of NMOCA scheduled to open in 2013, will attract about 2 million visitors per year.

Expecting that youngsters and foreigners will take up a large proportion of the visitors, UUL will mostly exhibit contemporary art. The Gwacheon museum, on the other hand, will focus on managing and exhibiting its existing collections and hold long-term exhibitions that trace the history of Korean art.

Other NMOCA branches will be going through changes in the following years as well. The Deoksugung museum, which will concentrate on modern art, especially those produced during the Japanese colonial period, will undergo renovation from March to May. The 4th branch of NMOCA which will play the role as a storehouse, will open in Cheongju, North Chungcheong Province, in 2014, by renovating an old cigarette factory.

About the incorporation issue, Chung said that she believes it will happen one day, and asserted that NMOCA should be ready for it.

“We have to think of how the museum can reach financial independence and prepare support systems. Tate Modern is one of those we benchmark,” said Chung, adding that the museum is in talks with the Culture Ministry to offer tax incentives to artists or collectors who donate artworks to the museum.

“NMOCA should be the first thing that pops up to the mind when foreigners think of Korean art. I will encourage our curators so that so-called ‘star’ curators can be born at NMOCA,” said Chung.

By Park Min-young  (