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Large-scale needle paintings of a chandelier.

What you see is the unseen / Chandeliers for Five Cities (detail), 2015, by Kyungah Ham (b. 1966). Photo by Hyunsoo Kim.


The Shape of Time: Korean Art after 1989

October 21, 2023–February 11, 2024

This exhibition brings together works by contemporary artists of Korean descent in a vibrant installation that filters individual artistic practice through the collective memory of a generation that lived under South Korea’s authoritarian regime—and was the first to experience its new democratic freedoms. Born between 1960 and 1986, many of the artists trained in Europe and the United States, immersing themselves in Euro-American ideals while coming of age at a time of rapid change in Korea.

The artists bend time—addressing the past, present, and future, sometimes all in the same work—and place to make sense of their complex cultural experiences. They reflect on the rapid urbanization and industrialization that shaped South Korea, unresolved political tensions with North Korea, the use of traditional techniques in contemporary art, the pressure to conform to societal norms around gender and sexuality, and their own resistance to these experiences.

As we expect of contemporary art, nothing is off limits. Each artist works in the medium that best delivers their message, be it fiber, painting, ceramics, photography, embroidery, installation, lacquer, video, metalwork, or performance. This is the first major showing of Korean contemporary art in the US since 2009. Many of the artists are well known in South Korea or have an international following, but others have not yet been properly introduced to audiences beyond Korea, especially in American museums, until now.

Featured Artists

Sekwon AHN


Ji-hoon HA

Kyungah HAM

Michael JOO

Se-kyun JU

siren eun young jung

Yeondoo JUNG

Hayoun KWON

Minouk LIM

Suki Seokyeong KANG

Inhwan OH


Kyeok KIM


Sang-hee YUN

Kelvin Kyung Kun PARK

Heinkuhn OH

PARK Chan-kyong

Donghyun SON

Juree KIM

Byron KIM

Jaewoo OH

Eui-jeong YOO

Suntag NOH

Sunkoo YUH


Meekyoung SHIN

Free Audio Tour

“The Shape of Time” takes on a whole new meaning when using Smartify as your virtual companion. Experience our exhibition while using the app’s audio tour to hear from curators, community members, and the artists themselves about the stories behind their work.

For the best experience, download the free Smartify app on your iOS or Android mobile device.

Listen now

Main Building


Major support for The Shape of Time: Korean Art after 1989 has been provided by The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage, with additional support from the Annenberg Foundation Fund for Major Exhibitions, the Robert Montgomery Scott Endowment for Exhibitions, E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Foundation, The Korea Foundation, The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, The Women’s Committee of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Jung and Nelson Chai, The James and Agnes Kim Foundation, Sueyun and Gene Locks, Maxine de S. Lewis, The Chanil Foundation, an anonymous donor, Andrea Baldeck, M.D., the Jill and Sheldon Bonovitz Exhibition Fund, Lois G. and Julian A. Brodsky, Emily and Mike Cavanagh, Mr. and Mrs. S. Matthews V. Hamilton, Jr., Cynthia L. Johnson, The Jane and Leonard Korman Family Foundation, Constance and Sankey Williams, and other generous individuals.

In-kind support for Meekyoung Shin’s Eastern Deities Descended provided by Neutrogena®.

Support for the presentation of Do Ho Suh’s Seoul Home/Seoul Home/Kanazawa Home/Beijing Home/Pohang Home/Gwangju Home/Philadelphia Home provided by Lehmann Maupin.

Support for the accompanying publication has been provided by The Korea Foundation.


Elisabeth Agro, Nancy M. McNeil Curator for American Modern and Contemporary Crafts and Decorative Arts

Hyunsoo Woo, Pappas-Sarbanes Deputy Director for Collections and Exhibitions

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