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June 22nd, 2006
Museum Exhibition Celebrates a Decade of Collecting in Korean Art

Celebrate Korea: A Decade of Collecting on View July 7, 2006 through Spring 2007 in Galleries 237 and 238

The Philadelphia Museum of Art has undergone a period of impressive growth and activity in its Korean art collection in recent years. With the support of the Korean Heritage Group, established in 1997, the collection has doubled in size and now numbers nearly 300 works in various mediums. To celebrate the expansion of the Korean art program and the 10th anniversary of the Korean Heritage Weekend, the Museum will present Celebrate Korea: A Decade of Collecting (July 7, 2006–Spring 2007). This exhibition of approximately 50 works includes screen paintings, hanging scrolls, furniture, and ceramics, mostly acquired since 1997. It will be accompanied by a bilingual (English and Korean) brochure chronicling the history of the Museum’s Korean Heritage Group and highlighting recently acquired works, which will be available in September.

Among the highlights is an exquisite group of Koryŏ dynasty (918-1392) and Chosŏn dynasty (1392-1910) ceramics from the collection of Colonel Stephen McCormick. Col. McCormick donated nearly 100 Korean works of art to the Museum through gifts and bequest accelerating the expansion of the Museum’s Korean collection. A selection of the Koryŏ celadons donated by Dr. Brian Salzberg will also be on view.

The exhibition will also include a mid-19th century Ch'aekkori screen painting, mounted as a ten-panel screen, which reflects the affinity of Korean literati of the period for exotic goods imported from China, in particular for the accoutrements of the Confucian scholar. Among the more recent works on display will be Son Man Jin’s Calligraphy of Chinese Poem (2005), which combines a traditional subject matter with a lively and contemporary visual presentation.

Hyunsoo Woo, Associate Curator of Korean Art, said, “The Museum is fortunate to count among its collection so many masterful examples of ceramics, Buddhist and secular ink paintings, and calligraphies. It is a rare opportunity to display so many choice acquisitions together.” Woo, who was appointed in January, is the Museum’s first curator of Korean art.

“Thanks to the commitment and dedication of the Korean Heritage Group and the generosity of individual donors, visitors can experience the finest examples of Korean art in the broad context of Asian art and in relation to art from around the world,” Woo said

Since its inception a decade ago the Korean Heritage Group has been dedicated to supporting research, exhibitions and acquisitions and to promoting Korean culture throughout the Philadelphia region. Every autumn the group hosts Korean Heritage Weekend, an arts and culture festival offering dance and music performances, family activities, workshops and exhibitions. The James J. and Agnes Kim Foundation’s $1 million commitment in support of Korean Art at the Museum in 2003 represented another exciting development in this area. In 2005, the Museum designated Ah-Young Kim as the first museum educator serving as liaison with Greater Philadelphia's large Korean and Korean American community.

With the support of the Korean Heritage Group and the Korea Foundation, this year’s Korean Heritage Weekend is scheduled for October 13–15 and will include a performance by the Washington Korean Dance Company, a demonstration of traditional embroidery and paper lantern making by Korean craft artists, and hands-on art activities for families and children. In addition, on October 14, the Museum will celebrate the Korean Heritage Group and its remarkable achievements during a gala evening and concert.

About the Collection of Korean Art at the Philadelphia Museum of Art
The East Asian Art collection at the Philadelphia Museum of Art includes over 10,000 paintings, sculptures, textiles, and decorative arts from China, Korea, and Japan. The first Korean objects to enter the Museum were three ceramics, donated in 1897. Other early acquisitions were made during the first decades of the 20th century. An indirect but intriguing connection to Korean ceramics came in 1917 when the scholar of Asian art Langdon Warner (1881–1955) was named Director of the Museum. Warner studied early Japanese Buddhist sculpture, and in his book on that subject pointed out the key role of Korean craftsmen in producing the early masterpieces of Buddhist sculpture in Japan. In 1911 Warner and his wife Lorraine traveled to Korea to study ceramics. Lorraine Warner wrote one of the first full-length introductions to Korean ceramics for an American audience in the 1930 issue of Eastern Art.

The undisputed masterpiece of the Philadelphia Museum of Art’s Korean ceramic collection is the magnificent Koryŏ dynasty carved celadon maebyong vase which once belonged to the collection of the financier J.P. Morgan. A large group of celadon wares, Chosŏn dynasty vases and ewers with underglaze iron and cobalt designs, as well as a small group of contemporary ceramics comprise the Museum’s main holdings. Korean paintings in the collections include Buddhist subjects, such as Third Judge of Hell, as well as secular ink paintings, and calligraphies. The first solo exhibition of a Korean contemporary artist was held at the Museum in the fall of 2003, Mountain Dreams, Contemporary Ceramics by Yoon Kwang-cho, organized by Felice Fischer. A major future project is the planning for new, larger Korean exhibition spaces in the expanded Asian galleries.

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