By James Tabafunda
Northwest Asian Weekly
Contemporary art in Korea has evolved over the decades. With last year’s opening of the $230 million National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Korea (MMCA) in Seoul, museum officials want the MMCA to join the ranks of such world-class landmarks as the Louvre in Paris and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.
Eunju Choi, MMCA chief curator, delivered a lecture at the Seattle Asian Art Museum on Oct. 16.
“Korea Now: Contemporary Art from the MMCA, Korea” was the name of the lecture.
The MMCA’s artistic vision is “increasing the dynamism of current and future art through interdisciplinary exchange and organic harmony between tradition and experimentation.” Seattle, according to Choi, is one of the sites chosen for interdisciplinary exchange.
“Ms. Choi is more than a curator. She is also a writer and an educator with deep knowledge in contemporary Korean and global art,” said Xiaojin Wu, emcee of the lecture and curator of Japanese and Korean art at SAAM.
She says they have been working together to brainstorm ideas for a future MMCA exhibition.
The MMCA Seoul will focus on introducing global contemporary art – art works from the 20th century and later. It is the third of four branches. MMCA Gwacheon opened its doors in 1986, MMCA Deoksugung in 1998, and MMCA Cheongju is set to open in 2017.
“Our new museum is located across the street [from Gyeongbokgung, a royal palace of the Joseon Dynasty],” Choi said. “We organized five thematic exhibitions for that inauguration.”
It covers 293,000 square feet over six floors, three of which are underground. Among its many features is a 356,000-square-foot outdoor sculpture garden, a digital book cafe, and a 122-seat theater.
Choi says it has eight galleries. In addition to displaying art works, it hosts a variety of concerts, film screenings, and live performances. She emphasized, “Korean audiences can see the new museum’s functions and activities in their lives.”
MMCA’s communicative vision is “to serve as an open museum communicating fully with the public through a variety of programs inviting active audience participation.” That participation is how MMCA plans to give its visitors a culturally rewarding experience.
“If visitors like a song (heard inside the museum), they can sing a song,” she said. “For Koreans, this is a cultural trend.”
One of Korea’s most famous artists, Do Ho Suh, created MMCA’s central art display, “Home Within Home Within Home Within Home Within Home,” a 39-foot-tall, 49-foot-wide structure made of transparent fabric shaped to resemble his first home in the West – a three-story town house in Providence, R.I. The “home within” structure is a reproduction of his family’s traditional-style house in Korea.
The entire display is hung from a hook on the ceiling, inside a 56-foot-tall space named the Seoul Box.
Choi said about Suh’s work, “It’s a kind of nylon.”
“Korean contemporary art is really dynamic and diverse in international art,” Choi said.
MMCA’s vision is also “to effectively establish and advance a new era of Korean fine arts in conjunction with the promotion of diversity and global culture.” Such artists as Mark Lee (Switzerland), filmmaker Amar Kanwar (India), and multimedia artist Kim Jones (USA) have exhibited their art works at the MMCA.
She also said, “Our museum has almost 7,500 art pieces, including international art works.”
The museum also has $3.76 (4,000 South Korean won) admission tickets.
Wu said, “We will introduce more Korean contemporary artists as amazing as Do Ho in the upcoming exhibition tentatively scheduled for fall 2015.” (end)
For more information about the Seattle Asian Art Museum, go to www.seattleartmuseum.org/visit/asian-art-museum.
James Tabafunda can be reached at email@example.com.