South Korean pop culture has become a source of soft power, spreading its reach worldwide. This wave has also increased global interest in Korean art. The global presence of Korean contemporary art has prompted numerous art institutions around the world to highlight the artistic world of a leading Korean artist and organize exhibitions that survey the contemporary art history of South Korea.
The Museum of Contemporary Art Australia is currently holding a solo exhibition presenting the works of South Korean artist Do Ho Suh. The exhibition, which spans Suh’s 30-year artistic career from the 1990s to the present, includes large-scale installations, sculptures, drawings, prints, and videos, and it will be held until February 26, 2023.
Do Ho Suh is well known for his large-scale architectural installations made of fabric that explore the issues of memory and identity in relation to space. The artist, who is currently based in London, began his artistic career in the United States, where his sculptural works attracted significant attention. Suh has presented his works globally, including in New York, Paris, and London. His works are included in the collections of world-renowned art museums, including the Mori Art Museum in Japan, the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), the Smithsonian American Art Museum, the Tate, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, the Whitney Museum of American Art, and the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art.
In an interview with a couple of Korean media outlets, the Smithsonian National Museum of Asian Art (NMAA) in Washington, D.C., mentioned that they intend to open a gallery dedicated to contemporary art in the future and that they are currently in talks with media artist Park Chan-kyong to include his video works and Do Ho Suh to bring his installation works to its gallery.
Chase F. Robinson, the Dame Jillian Sackler Director of the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery and the Freer Gallery of Art, visited South Korea and discussed with the MMCA a future exhibition of the Lee Kun-hee collection. Moreover, the NMAA mentioned appointing a curator dedicated to Korean art with the assistance of the Korea Foundation.
The Smithsonian National Museum of Asian Art, which is comprised of the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery and the Freer Gallery of Art, has more than 44,000 collections. Approximately 1,000 of these are works of Korean art, the majority of which are Buddhist paintings, Goryeo celadon, and Joseon white porcelain. The museum’s collection is primarily comprised of ancient art objects, but it has been expanding its collections of modern and contemporary Asian art for the past decade.
Last September, the Philadelphia Museum of Art mentioned that it would hold an exhibition introducing Korean contemporary art in October 2023. The exhibition will be curated by Hyunsoo Woo, deputy director for collections and exhibitions, and will feature the artworks of thirty-three Korean contemporary artists, including Do Ho Suh, Kyungah Ham, and Meekyoung Shin.
In collaboration with Korea’s National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art (MMCA), the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York will host a special exhibition of Korean avant-garde art from the 1960s and 1970s at the end of 2023. Korean avant-garde art played an important role in fostering contemporary Korean art, but it has been overlooked in its art history.
In addition to Korean contemporary art exhibitions, many museums outside of Korea are displaying or planning to display modern Korean art. Until February 19, 2023, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) is currently holding an exhibition that explores the history and development of Korean art from 1897 to 1965. Korea’s MMCA has announced that it is collaborating with the Art Institute of Chicago to exhibit the Lee Kun-hee collection in early 2026 and with the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York to hold an exhibition that highlights the transitional period of the Korean Empire.