Korean-Colombian artist Gala Porras-Kim (b. 1984), who has garnered international attention in the art world, is now in the spotlight in Korea. Her solo exhibition titled National Treasures is being held at the Leeum Museum of Art in Hannam-dong, one of South Korea’s most significant private art museums, until March 31, 2024.
Her art challenges the conservation principles within the context of cultural heritage, history, and museum institutions. She infuses imagination into museum artifacts, offering a new way of exhibiting these relics. Porras-Kim’s solo exhibition features three of her latest pieces. Despite the limited number of works on view, there’s no reason for disappointment, as her art is presented alongside ten national treasures from the museum’s collection, allowing for a reflection on the history of Korean artifacts while imparting a fresh narrative.
One of her featured works, 530 National Treasures, combines national treasures from North and South Korea, allowing viewers to rethink the meaning of national treasures in the historical context of Korea’s division after liberation from Japanese occupation. Another piece, 37 Korean objects uprooted during the Japanese occupation, gathers artifacts taken out of Korea during the Japanese colonial period. The artwork is on view with the famous Goryeo Buddhist painting Amitabha Buddha Triad, known to have been brought to Japan by Lee Byung-chul, the founder of Samsung. This work offers diverse social and cultural perspectives on these artifacts. Gourd-shaped Ewer Decorated with Lotus Petals Display Shadow was inspired by Porras-Kim’s observations of how Leeum displays ceramics, particularly the artistic presentation of a Korean national treasure within a dimly lit exhibition space, shedding light on the museum’s exhibition methods.
Born in Bogota, Colombia, and currently based in Los Angeles, Porras-Kim has been featured on the international art scene in recent years, with her works showcased in events such as the Liverpool Biennial (2022-2023), São Paulo Biennial (2021), Gwangju Biennial (2021), Whitney Biennial (2019), and Hammer Museum Biennial (2016).