Gallery 237 and Baldeck Gallery 238, second floor
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 presents this exhibition of approximately 50 works. Among them are screen paintings, hanging scrolls, furniture, and ceramics, mostly acquired since 1997.
A bilingual brochure, featuring exhibition highlights and the history and chronology of the Korean Heritage Group, is available for viewing in the Museum library.
Highlights include an exquisite group of Koryŏ dynasty (918–1392) and Chŏson 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 is also on view.
Due to the fragility of works on paper and silk, the screens, scrolls, and paintings in this exhibition are switched periodically. In January 2007, the Museum replaced several delicate pieces with new ones, among them two that feature calligraphy. A writing style that originated in China, calligraphy has been widely practiced and revered in East Asian cultures as one of the essential visual art forms. Calligraphy styles number in the thousands, but within the East Asian tradition there are some general standardizations, which include the seal, clerical, cursive, semicursive and regular scripts. The styles of this beautiful writing influenced literati and ink painting, which are accomplished with similar tools and techniques.
One of the newly installed calligraphies, a late eighteenth- to early nineteenth-century screen, consists of Chinese poems brushed in the standard cursive, or grass, script. These poems celebrate the beautiful scenery of the Xiao and Xiang rivers, tributaries of one of China's largest lakes, West Lake. The second work now on view is a calligraphy in a series of eight scrolls created in 2001 by artist Son Man Jin (born 1964). Son Man Jin's calligraphy is very different from the cursive style, creating a dynamic dialogue between contemporary and traditional visual presentation.
Hyunsoo Woo • Associate Curator of Korean Art