The Korea Herald


[Herald Interview] Victoria and Albert museum sheds light on Korean art

By Lee Woo-young

Published : Sept. 11, 2016 - 17:18

    • Link copied

In 1961, the Victoria and Albert Museum, one of the world’s leading museums of art and design, held Europe’s first Korean art exhibition. In 1992, the museum officially opened the first Korean gallery in London dedicated to the country’s arts and crafts.

Beth McKillop, a senior research fellow at the V&A and its former deputy director and director of collections, orchestrated the opening of the first Korean gallery in London and the building of the Korean art collection. The V&A’s Korean Gallery opened earlier than the Korean gallery at the British Museum in 2000.

“We have some 800 objects growing steadily over time including historic objects and contemporary objects,” said McKillop in an interview on Sept. 6 at the Culture Communication Forum in Seoul. McKillop was invited to speak at the forum organized by the Corea Image Communication Institute.

“Many of our visitors coming into our museum encounter Chinese, Indian, Japanese and Korean art as they go into the gallery,” she added. 

Beth McKillop, senior research fellow at the Victoria and Albert Museum (Yoon Byung-chan/The Korea Herald) Beth McKillop, senior research fellow at the Victoria and Albert Museum (Yoon Byung-chan/The Korea Herald)

The V&A’s Korean gallery, sponsored by the Korean government and Samsung, was the last addition to the museum’s Asian galleries. Its collection spans the Three Kingdoms period (38 B.C. to 668) to present-day. It recently acquired modern and contemporary Korean artworks, including a painting by the 20th century painter Lee Sang-beom and a photograph by Bae Bien-u.

The Asian galleries serve as a window to Asian art.

“Museum visitors (tend to come) just for an interesting day out. When they find something they like, they stop and look at it. I think that’s great. Museums are a wonderful means of communicating with a very broad audience,” she said.

The museum’s new Ceramics Galleries offer viewers a look into the world of ceramics from its making, techniques and materials to the styles from Asia, the Middle East and Europe.

Here, Korean ceramics make an important contribution.

“We were able to use a lot of Korean examples to illustrate history alongside some ceramics from other parts of the world thereby helping people to see ceramics in the international context,” she added.

By Lee Woo-young (