The Korean Heritage Group
Founded in 1997, the Korean Heritage Group is committed to supporting research, exhibition, and acquisition of Korean art and to promoting Korean culture throughout the Philadelphia region. Significant gifts of art and much-needed operational and program funding have come to the Museum through the efforts of the group. It also sponsors an annual Korean Heritage Weekend, featuring traditional performers as well as contemporary musicians such as violinist David Kim, who since 1999 has served as Concertmaster of the Philadelphia Orchestra. Eminent scholars and artists from Korea have been invited to speak on topics such as Korean Buddhist art and Korean ceramics. The Museum’s first special exhibition of a contemporary Korean artist, Mountain Dreams: Contemporary Ceramics by Yoon Kwang-cho, held in fall 2003, was supported in part by funding from the Korean Heritage Group, the Korea Foundation, the Blakemore Foundation, the Hollis-Baldek Fund, and Dr. Luther W. Brady, Jr.
The Arts of Korea
Asian art objects acquired from the 1876 Philadelphia Centennial Exhibition—the first world’s fair held in the United States—were prominent in the galleries of the Museum’s first home, Memorial Hall, when it opened in 1877. Today, the Museum’s collections include paintings, sculpture, ceramics, lacquers, metalworks, and textiles from all of Asia, including nearly 200 works of art from Korea. Functionality, simplicity, a lack of artifice, and a respect for nature are hallmarks of the Korean concept of beauty. These values are clearly evident in the Museum’s galleries of Korean art. The strength of the Museum’s Korean collections lies in the breadth and quality of the ceramics, which range from rare roof tiles from the kingdom of Silla (57 B.C.–A.D.668) and masterpieces of twelfth-century celadonware to dramatic dragon jars from the Chŏson dynasty (1392–1910) and contemporary pieces such as an imposing covered vessel by Kim Yikyung (born 1935).
The first Korean works of art to enter the Museum were several stoneware dishes bequeathed in 1897 by General Hector Tyndale. Since then, the Korean holdings have grown steadily, primarily through gifts from individuals, but also through major purchases made possible in part through support from the Korean Heritage Group. Among these most recent acquisitions are several screens, including a nineteenth-century calligraphy and a depiction of Reeds and Geese by the twentieth-century artist Kim Jin-Woo (1883–1950).
Looking to the Future
Crucial to the expanding collections of Korean art is the availability of adequate and appropriate space in which to display the objects. The newly developed master plan of the Museum envisages significant additional gallery space in which to exhibit the collections. In addition to assembling and presenting a world-class collection of Korean art, the Museum is dedicated to sharing and interpreting the objects with as large an audience as possible through research, educational programs, library resources, publications, and scholarly symposia. Ten million dollars in funding is necessary to assure and enhance the future of the Korean art collections and their care, exhibition, and research:
- to support pending acquisitions
- to establish an endowed acquisition fund for future growth
- to establish the Korean galleries in dramatically larger, state-of-the-art Asian art galleries planned for the Museum’s first floor—a significant initiative that aims to double exhibition space for Korean art within a decade
- to endow a permanent position for a curator of Korean art and to support educational programs and scholarly publications
Gifts That Transform
Collections are the lifeblood of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, which is dedicated to forging deep connections between great works of art and the public for whom it holds them in trust. Enriching and expanding the collections are essential to the continued vitality of the Museum and its ability to attract and sustain new audiences. Celebrations of the Museum’s 125th anniversary in 2001 highlighted the generosity of its public-spirited benefactors, both past and present. The 125th anniversary gifts of Korean art—ranging from sixth-century ceramics to twelfth-century bronze mirrors and nineteenth-century screen paintings—have truly transformed the Museum’s collections and illuminated paths for future growth. Among the objects still on the Museum’s "wish list" are:
- examples of fifth- and sixth-century goldsmiths’ work
- early Buddhist painting
- costume and textiles
- sixteenth- and seventeenth-century punch'ong and white-ware ceramics
- literati painting
- contemporary crafts and calligraphy
Sharing the Gifts of Korean Art: Education and Outreach
The Department of Asian Art, working with the Museum’s Division of Education and Department of External Affairs, has built a nationally acclaimed model for artistic and outreach programs. These programs engage visitors of all ages and backgrounds—including the 70,000 members of the Philadelphia region’s vibrant Korean and Korean-American community—with the Museum’s significant and growing collections of Korean art. Held annually, the immensely popular Korean Heritage Weekend explores Korean art and culture through music, dance, tours, and hands-on craft activities; a series of special family events focuses on the Museum’s collections of Korean art; and numerous initiatives benefit educators and their elementary through high-school students by combining visits to the Museum with specialized in-classroom teaching resources—slide packets, full-color teaching posters, and craft-technique demonstration kits. The Museum is also a national leader in distance learning, which uses video-conferencing technology to bring live, interactive lessons—originating at the Museum—to schools across the United States.