The new Korean curatorial position at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Asian Art (NMAA) in Washington, D.C. will expand the museum’s Korean programs and collections.
As global interest in Korean culture has increased in recent years, there has been a growing number of collaborations with overseas organizations to introduce Korean arts and culture.
London’s Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A), which attracts about 4 million visitors a year, has signed an agreement with the Korean Cultural Centre UK to present the special exhibition Hallyu! The Korean Wave. The exhibition is scheduled to run through June 25, 2023.
The agreement between the two organizations is part of the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism’s Overseas Korean Galleries Support Program, which aims to promote Korean art and culture by supporting Korean galleries in overseas museums. The Korean government will support the V&A with a budget of 2 billion KRW over five years, which the museum will use to improve the Korean galleries, conduct relevant research and surveys, and organize exhibitions related to Korean culture.
The Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), one of the three major art museums in the Los Angeles area of the United States, has been running the Hyundai Project: Korean Art Scholarship Initiative since 2015, a 10-year partnership with South Korea’s Hyundai Motor Company. As part of the project, LACMA collaborated with the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art (MMCA) to present The Space Between: The Modern in Korean Art, which ended on February 19, 2023.
In addition to LACMA, the MMCA is expanding collaborations with major galleries and museums abroad to promote major Korean artworks. Among them is the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York. The two institutions joined hands to open Only the Young: Experimental Art in Korea, 1960s–1970s, which will first open at the MMCA Seoul and travel to the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles in February 2024, following the Guggenheim presentation this fall.
The collaboration between Korea and major art institutions to showcase Korean culture and art is not limited to exhibition projects.
The Korea Foundation (KF) announced its support for the first-ever Korean curatorial position at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Asian Art (NMAA) in Washington, D.C.
Along with the museum’s reputation, the new curator’s leadership is expected to introduce Korean art and culture to a broader audience. Opened in 1923, the NMAA is the largest art institution in the United States specializing in Asian art and is located in Washington, D.C., which attracts a diverse audience of world opinion leaders, cultural figures and the general public. With this, the appointed curator will provide the ongoing leadership necessary to grow the museum’s Korean programs and collections and will be committed to studying and presenting Korean art and culture to a wider audience.
As a recognized expert in the field, the new curator will lead innovative programs that illuminate both premodern and contemporary cultures of Korea and organize a major loan exhibition of Korean art scheduled for 2025–2026.
“Our centennial is intended to mark the museum’s distinguished past and to usher in its future. This endowed position ensures that Korean art and culture will play a major role in our next century,” said Chase F. Robinson, Dame Jillian Sackler Director of the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery and Freer Gallery of Art, the National Museum of Asian Art.
Founded in 1923 as the Freer Gallery, the NMAA has the largest and most comprehensive collection of Asian art in North America, with more than 45,000 artifacts ranging from ancient to modern and encompassing the cultures of China, Japan, Korea, South Asia, Southeast Asia and Islam.
The NMAA was one of the first museums in the United States to exhibit Korean art and now holds more than 800 Korean artworks. With the recent global interest in Korean culture, the NMAA is expanding its programming to showcase Korean art alongside Korean pop culture, including film, food, music and performance.
Korean and Korean American contemporary art has been featured in several exhibitions at the National Museum of Asian Art as well. Korean artist Do Ho Suh was introduced at the museum in 2004, and Michael Joo in 2017. In the fall of 2023, the museum’s new contemporary art gallery will open with a solo exhibition by artist-filmmaker Park Chankyong. Moreover, in early 2024, the museum will install a specially commissioned edition of the sculpture Public Figures by Do Ho Suh in front of the Freer Gallery to celebrate the museum’s centennial.
Starting with the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the curatorial position has been endowed to four institutions so far, including the Cleveland Museum of Art, the Art Institute of Chicago and the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Asian Art. The endowed curatorial position in Korean art and culture was launched in 2019 with 50 percent funding each from overseas museums and the Korea Foundation.
An international search for candidates for the curator of Korean art and culture began on April 25, and KF plans to open a new call for institutions in July.