A gala concert and dinner, a performance by the Washington Korean Dance Company, artist demonstrations of traditional Korean embroidery and paper lantern making, and hands-on art activities for families and children are just a few of the events that will mark the 10th anniversary of Korean Heritage Weekend at the Philadelphia Museum of Art on October 13-15th. With the support of the Korean Heritage Group and the Korea Foundation, and thanks to underwriting from Samsung Electronics America, Inc., this year’s milestone Korean Heritage Weekend promises to be a festive affair with something to offer visitors of all ages. Since its inception a decade ago the Korean Heritage Group at the Philadelphia Museum of Art has been dedicated to supporting research, exhibitions, and acquisitions, and to promoting Korean culture throughout the Philadelphia region. Among the group’s most vital and significant projects has been the highly popular annual Korean Heritage Weekend. In recognition of the remarkable achievements of the last decade, the Museum will celebrate with a 10th anniversary gala concert and dinner to be held in the Museum’s East Balcony on the evening of Saturday, October 14th.
“The extraordinary growth of the Museum’s collection of Korean art in the past ten years would not have been possible without the vision and continued commitment of our Korean Heritage Group,” Museum Director Anne d’Harnoncourt said. “The excitement that surrounds the annual Korean Heritage Weekend is a testament to the dynamism of the Group and to the visible impact they have had on the institution over the years.”
With the support of the Korean Heritage Group, established in 1997, the Museum’s Korean art collection has doubled in size and now numbers nearly 300 works in various mediums. In January 2006 the Museum appointed Hyunsoo Woo to serve as its first curator of Korean art, making her one of a small number of curators in the United States to be fully dedicated to this important field. “It’s an exciting opportunity to work with this significant and increasingly rich segment of the Museum’s collection,” said Woo.
Woo’s first exhibition, Celebrate Korea: A Decade of Collecting, is on view through spring 2007 and highlights approximately 50 of works from this collection including screen paintings, hanging scrolls, furniture, and ceramics, mostly acquired since 1997. To accompany the Celebrate Korea exhibition, she has authored a bilingual (English and Korean) brochure chronicling the history of the Museum’s Korean Heritage Group and highlighting recently acquired works.
“Thanks to the efforts and enthusiasm of the Korean Heritage Group and the generosity of individual donors, the Museum has been able to acquire and exhibit many extraordinary works of Korean art in recent years,” noted Felice Fisher, the Luther W. Brady Curator of Japanese Art and Curator of East Asian Art. “The momentum is truly significant in terms of our acquisitions, exhibitions, and programming in this field.”
“It has been our goal and our immense pleasure to help provide an opportunity for visitors to enrich their understanding of our culture, and experience first-hand the finest examples of Korean art in the context of the Museum’s world-class collection,” remarked Dr. Bong Sik Lee, a founding member of the Korean Heritage Group.
In addition to exhibition and collection activities, the past ten years have seen significant growth in programming and outreach to the Korean community as well. In 2000, the Museum designated Ah-Young Kim as the first Museum educator serving as liaison with Greater Philadelphia's large Korean and Korean American community.
On Saturday, October 14th, approximately 200 Korean language students from throughout the region will participate in a day-long celebration of Korean arts and culture. Also on Saturday, from 9 a.m. to noon, artist Sung Hee Lee will offer a Korean embroidery workshop, which is open to the public.
Saturday evening’s 10th Anniversary Korean Heritage Gala to benefit the Museum kicks off with a champagne reception and curator’s tour of the galleries at 5 p.m., followed by a 6 p.m. concert featuring violinist Soovin Kim and collaborating pianist Jeewon Park. At 7 p.m. guests will enjoy an elegant dinner in the East Balcony overlooking the Museum’s Great Stair Hall.
Korean Heritage Weekend concludes with a Special Family Event on Sunday, October 15th from 2 to 5 p.m., when visitors can enjoy elegant costumes and graceful movements of the Washington Korean Dance Company. Korean craft artists will be on hand to demonstrate traditional techniques of embroidery and paper lantern making, and children are invited to make their own Korean crafts in the Make and Take Workshop. This event is free after Museum admission (which is ‘pay what you wish’ on Sundays).
About the Collection of Korean Art at the Philadelphia Museum of 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 work of art to enter the Museum was a stoneware dish, which came in 1903. 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 early twentieth-century artist Kim Jin-Woo (1883–1950).
The undisputed masterpiece of the Korean ceramic collection is the magnificent Koryŏ dynasty carved celadon maebyong vase, which once belonged to the collection of the financier J.P. Morgan. The Museum’s main holdings include a large group of celadon wares, Chŏson dynasty vases and ewers with underglaze, iron and cobalt designs, and a small group of contemporary ceramics. 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, Mountain Dreams, Contemporary Ceramics by Yoon Kwang-cho, was held at the Museum in the fall of 2003 and organized by Felice Fischer. A major future project is the planning for new, larger spaces for Korean art in the expanded Asian galleries, which are part of the Museum’s master plan.