More than 150 works from this celebrated era will be on view, including ceremonial screens, ceramics, books, and textiles
HOUSTON—July 16, 2014—This fall, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, opens Treasures from Korea: Arts and Culture of the Joseon Dynasty, 1392–1910, the first comprehensive survey in the United States devoted to the art of the celebrated Joseon dynasty, an era that profoundly shaped the culture of Korea in ways that continue to resonate today. The exhibition, organized by the National Museum of Korea, Seoul; the Philadelphia Museum of Art; the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA); and the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, will be on view in Houston from October 30, 2014, to January 11, 2015, which, as of July 2014, is a change from the originally scheduled opening date of November 2, 2014.
This exhibition comprises more than 150 works, including a number of designated National Treasures that are entirely new to American audiences. The works range from the courtly arts of ceremonial screen painting and calligraphy to scenes that vividly depict life across the social classes. Also displayed are ritual vessels, outstanding examples of Korean ceramics, and works that illustrate the dynamic encounters between the “Hermit Kingdom” and the West at the end of the 19th century. Illustrated books, metalwork, sculpture, lacquer, furniture, costumes, and textiles have been selected to demonstrate the breadth and scope of the artistic achievement of the Joseon dynasty.
Treasures from Korea: Arts and Culture of the Joseon Dynasty, 1392–1910 draws primarily from the collection of the National Museum of Korea, supplemented by loans from public and private collections in Korea. It is part of an unprecedented cultural exchange conceived to foster greater understanding and friendship between the people of the United States and Korea. A reciprocal survey of 300 years of American art from the collections of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, LACMA, and MFAH—Art Across America—traveled last year to the National Museum of Korea and the Daejeon Museum of Art to introduce Korean audiences to American art and culture.
The Joseon dynasty exhibition is organized around five key themes that illuminate the artistic accomplishments and dynamics of Korean cultural life under the world’s longest-ruling Confucian dynasty, which saw the succession of 27 kings over 518 years. The period is a subject of deep fascination because it continues to influence modern Korean manners, norms, and societal attitudes. The exhibition also sheds light on the external influences that profoundly affected Korean culture. These include the adoption of the Chinese writing system in the 2nd century BCE, the spread of Buddhism, and the introduction of Confucian values that would impose strict moral codes and standards. As the founding philosophy of the Joseon dynasty, Confucianism provides a unifying perspective for the artistic styles of the dynasty as these evolved over time.
The exhibition’s five sections focus on the role of the king and his royal court in establishing distinctive art and culture throughout Korea; the taste for simplicity assiduously cultivated at this time and its embodiment in ceramics and other media; the strict hierarchies that defined the social distinctions of class and gender; the production of ritual implements in metal and ceramics that gave expression to ancestral worship; the suppression and persistence of Buddhism under Confucian rule; and the direct encounter with Western civilization beginning in the late 19th century as seen from internal and external points of view.
Gary Tinterow, Director, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, commented: “We are thrilled with the opportunity to bring this extraordinary exhibition to the public. The MFAH has a particular interest in Korean art and related scholarship, and houses the only museum gallery in the Southwest dedicated solely to Korean art, featuring fine objects lent from the National Museum of Korea. We are therefore very pleased to once again partner with the Philadelphia Museum of Art, LACMA, and the National Museum of Korea for this remarkable exchange.”
Timothy Rub, The George D. Widener Director and Chief Executive Officer, Philadelphia Museum of Art, stated: “Treasures from Korea breaks new ground on many levels. It is the first full-scale survey presented in the United States of Korean art from the Joseon dynasty, which continues to profoundly shape Korean culture today, and it will enable us to share the art of this important period, including many treasures never before seen in the U.S., with audiences throughout the country. We are pleased to have organized this exhibition in partnership with the National Museum of Korea, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, expanding on an initiative that began with a survey of American art presented in Korea early last year and that subsequently traveled to Sydney, Australia, this past fall. Altogether it has become an exceptionally rich collaboration among many museums and between two great cultures.”
Michael Govan, Chief Executive Officer and Wallis Annenberg Director, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, said: “We are grateful to the National Museum of Korea for making this exhibition possible. This partnership embodies LACMA’s mission to mount exhibitions that represent the diverse populations of Los Angeles, home to the largest Korean community outside of Korea. LACMA’s comprehensive holdings of Korean art, which boast a dedicated gallery and focused education programs, are a strength of the museum’s encyclopedic collection.”
Kim Youngna, Director-General, National Museum of Korea, said: “In our ongoing quest to promote world history and culture, we are very pleased to be able to share the treasures of our heritage with American audiences, in the same way that the Korean public gained a better understanding of the art of the United States through the exhibition Art Across America. We are delighted to take part in this important cultural collaboration between Korea and the United States.”
The exhibition is accompanied by a fully illustrated scholarly catalogue, copublished by the Philadelphia Museum of Art with Yale University Press.
Organization and Funding
The exhibition is organized by the National Museum of Korea, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston.
This exhibition is made possible by the National Endowment for the Humanities, the E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Foundation, and the Korea Foundation. Transportation assistance is provided by Korean Air.
In Houston, generous funding is provided by Chinhui and Eddie Allen; Chi Si Choi, M.D. and Sung Ha Choi; Jin S. Park, M.D. and Yang O. Huh, M.D.; Nancy C. Allen; Baytown Shopping Center; Michelle H. Chong; Tokyo Gardens Catering, LLC; and Friends of Treasures from Korea.
About the MFAH
Founded in 1900, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, is among the 10 largest art museums in the United States. Located in the heart of Houston’s Museum District, the MFAH comprises two gallery buildings, a sculpture garden, theater, two art schools and two libraries, with two house museums, for American and European decorative arts, nearby. The encyclopedic collection of the MFAH numbers some 65,000 works and spans the art of antiquity to the present.
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