Back To Top
Life&Style

Aesthetics of Korean art, from ancient to contemporary times, explored in a single exhibition

Four modern works from the late Samsung Group Chairman Lee Kun-hee’s art collection on display for the first time

“Still Life With Jar and Grapes” and “Still Life A” by To Sang-bong are on display at “Dynamic & Alive Korean Art.” (Yonhap)
“Still Life With Jar and Grapes” and “Still Life A” by To Sang-bong are on display at “Dynamic & Alive Korean Art.” (Yonhap)
Art lovers may wonder how Korea’s ancient culture influenced its modern and contemporary artists. The exhibition “Dynamic & Alive Korean Art” is an effort to answer that question by delving into Korean aesthetics.

The exhibition from the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Korea, brings together 35 cultural assets and some 130 artworks from the modern and contemporary era.

Presenting modern works along with Korean cultural artifacts from the National Museum of Korea, the exhibition at MMCA Deoksugung offers an experience that will make visitors think about Korean art and its roots. The museum’s Deoksugung venue, one of four in the country, focuses on Korean modern art.

Korean modern artist Lee Jung-seop’s painting “Children in Spring” is displayed alongside a “Celadon Ewer With Grape and Child Design” from the Goryeo Kingdom (918-1392). Although the two works are from different eras, they share similarities in design and color. 

An installation view of “Dynamic & Alive Korean Art” at MMCA Deoksugung (MMCA)
An installation view of “Dynamic & Alive Korean Art” at MMCA Deoksugung (MMCA)
Other works on display together include “Bakyeon Falls” by Joseon-era landscape painter Jeong Seon (1676–1759) and “Umber Blue” by Yun Hyong-keun, a significant artist from the 20th century. They share a similarity in atmosphere.

The highlights of the exhibition are from a modern art collection donated by the late Samsung Group Chairman Lee Kun-hee.

The four works from that collection on display at the exhibition occupy a significant place in Korea’s modern art history. “Girl and Ox” by Park Young-seun, “Tinfoil Painting” by Lee Jung-seop and two paintings by To Sang-bong -- “Still Life With Jar and Grapes” and “Still Life A” -- are the first of the donated pieces to be displayed at the exhibition in Seoul. 

“Tango Flowing at Dusk” by Cheon Kyung-ja (MMCA)
“Tango Flowing at Dusk” by Cheon Kyung-ja (MMCA)
The exhibition explores four themes that are key elements of East Asian aesthetics, according to the museum. These are “Sacred and Ideal,” “Elegant and Simple,” “Decorative and Worldly” and “Dynamic and Hybrid.”

The installation work “Heart Sutra” by Paik Nam-june, known as the father of video art, is also part of the exhibition, showing how Korea’s modern art was influenced both by Korea’s own traditions as well as by Western culture.

“This exhibition is unique in that national treasures and contemporary artworks are presented together,” said MMCA Director Youn Bum-mo.

Accompanying the exhibition is a 650-page catalog that explores Korean aesthetics in depth. The catalog was written by 44 researchers. The exhibition runs through Oct. 10 at MMCA Deoksugung, and online reservations are required through the museum’s official website.


By Park Yuna (yunapark@heraldcorp.com)
MOST POPULAR