Even art experts need to study sometimesThe Los Angeles County Museum of Art opened its Korean gallery three years ago with the help of the Korea Foundation. The chief curator of the museum and the man behind the initiative, J. Keith Wilson, came to Korea for the Workshop for Korean Art Curators, held in the historic city of Gyeongju, North Gyeongsang province. The JoongAng Ilbo English Edition met with Mr. Wilson after the final seminar on Sept. 12 to discuss this year's workshop and the future of Korean art.
What did you especially like about this year's event?
It was a wonderful opportunity to immerse myself in Silla arts and culture, since so much of the kingdom's relics are concentrated in Gyeongju. We had lectures in the morning and then field studies in the afternoon. It was like a living laboratory. Everything that I saw in the books came alive.
What was the highlight of your trip to Gyeongju?
On the first Sunday, we all climbed Namsan and it was an enlightening experience for me. Until now, I never understood the beauty of the sculptures on the mountain. [The artifacts] seemed provincial before, compared to the symmetrical, axial arrangement of the urban ones. But I saw them in their wild and natural environment, it made me see and appreciate them in a new light.
What are some of the efforts being made to foster knowledge of Korean art?
We are working closely with universities that provide Korea-related programs, such as UCLA and USC, to provide opportunities for Americans to study Korean culture and history. I believe the museum, as a popular institution, can give exposure to the public as well as give an intellectual base to the universities.
What are some of the problems you see in efforts to spread Korean art?
There are relatively few scholars in the U.S. specializing in Korean art, and many come in contact with Korean art as part of their Chinese or Japanese studies. There is the need to introduce Korean art independently. Also, one of the biggest problems is that of communication. Not many Korean scholars speak English fluently, and vice versa for American scholars, which poses problems in delivering knowledge precisely.
If you had one wish for the Korean art academia, what would it be?
I wish Korean scholars would do more comparative studies when they make presentations. The fact is most of today's younger generation of scholars are trained in Korea so they tend to understand art objects solely in a Korean context.
by Choi Jie-ho