A survey of sexuality sure to arouse debateAlthough the neon signs of charge-by-the-hour motels have long been part of the Seoul landscape, sexuality is not generally discussed out in the open in Korea. But a new exhibition in Seoul may challenge that.
The World Erotic Art Exhibition, now underway in the 63 Building on Yeouido, is a collection of more than 1,000 works of art and craft from 60 countries in Asia, Europe, Africa and the Americas.
The intent of the exhibit is to show how perceptions and practices of eroticism have evolved through history.
One thing the exhibition makes clear is that sexuality has been a symbol of life, prolificity, material abundance ― indeed, has been one of civilization’s driving forces ― across all cultures.
The ancient Greeks were said to have believed that humans’ greatest happiness came from sexual pleasure. Greek artifacts such as ceramics, wall paintings and statues reflect this philosophy. They also reiterate that in ancient Greece, homosexuality and bisexuality were widely accepted.
During Europe’s medieval Dark Ages, sexuality was condemned more than celebrated, at least officially. From the 11th through 13th centuries, Christians embarking from Europe on the crusades to reclaim the Holy Land and Jerusalem devised chastity belts to prevent their wives from straying, examples of which are on display. Some women subjected to the cruelty of this discomforting device committed suicide.
To the east of Europe one finds the Kama Sutra, the sex manual of ancient India, represented in this exhibition by descriptive stone carvings. In the Hindu world, the pursuit of sexual pleasure was revered as a sort of religious quest.
The sivalinga, a stone artifact representing life and the energy of creation and the universe to Hindus, bears the shape of a phallus that is planted in or emerging from a millstone, which represents the yoni, or female genitalia.
Farther east, China’s tradition of foot binding, which originated during the Northern Song Dynasty around the 10th century, was intended not only to prevent wives from fleeing, but to enhance sexual appeal. Pictures of the practice, and shoes worn by women who underwent it, are part of the exhibition.
Women whose feet were bound tightly would develop a thinner bone structure, thus appearing more fragile. At that time, the duck-like gait it caused in women was said to have been an attractive quality.
All of the items on display here were culled from the collection of Kim Min-seok, the president of Solomon, a Korean company that collects and displays various artifacts.
Mr. Kim hopes to create a museum on Jeju island with his collections.
by Limb Jae-un
The exhibition, continuing to July 6, runs from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily. Entrance costs 10,000 won ($8.50), or 6,000 won for youth. For more information, call (02) 789-5663 or go to www.63city.co.kr/att/att.html.