Museum curators' focus to be Buddhist art

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Museum curators' focus to be Buddhist art

Since 1999, the Korea Foundation has been hosting the "Workshop for Curators of Korean Art," inviting curators and scholars from museums and galleries around the world to enhance knowledge of Korean art and culture. For a week, the entourage engages in seminars and visits national museums and rural historic sites.

This year, however, is an exception. The curators are going to spend a week in Gyeongju, from Tuesday to Sept. 10, and spend one night at Songgwangsa temple in Jeolla province, before returning to spend the final three days of the workshop in Seoul.

At Songgwangsa, the visitors will not only experience Korean temple cuisine, but also participate in dawn chanting along with the monks who reside there.

The reason for the change of plans is the theme of this year's workshop: "Buddhism and the Arts of Korea." The ancient city of Gyeongju, which was the capital of the Silla kingdom from the 7th to the 10th centuries, is the foremost place for Buddhism and Buddhist artifacts in Korea. There are several renowned temples in the Gyeongju area, such as Bulguksa, Bunhwangsa and Hwangnyongsa temples and the Seokguram stone grotto.

The workshops have centered on fostering a greater understanding of Korean arts and history so that the country's artifacts will be better represented and preserved abroad.

"Our objective is not only maintaining close ties with the international community of Korean art experts," says Yoo Seung-eun, Program Officer at the Korea Foundation, "but re-educating them on preservation, display and expertise on our historic artifacts."

Twenty-three curators from six countries will be attending, including Pierre Cambon of the Musee Guimet, Keith Wilson of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and Susan Bean of the Peabody Essex Museum. Most of the expenses for participants will be paid by the Korea Foundation.

Along with many tours to museums and temples that have been planned, two seminars will be held at the end of the event in Seoul. The first is "Buddhist Art of East Asia," and the second, "Preservation of Buddhist Art Collections." The preservation seminar will be presided over by Tung Wu, the curator of Asian arts at the Boston Fine Arts Museum.

Ms Yoo says the key focus of this event is that "curators from prestigious art museums around the world will be visiting Buddhist cultural sites and exploring the aesthetic and historic values of Korea's Buddhist heritage."

Before 1980, there were only 15 independent Korean art galleries around the world.

Now, thanks to the efforts of the Korea Foundation and the Ministry of Culture, there are nearly 50 Korean art galleries in 17 countries.

"In the past decade," Ms. Yoo says, "we have helped fund and launch 12 Korean art galleries and two more are set to open in 2003."

Over the past four years, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the British Museum in London and the Guimet Museum in France have all opened Korean galleries.

by Choi Jie-ho

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