[VIEWPOINT]Public should enjoy art freely

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[VIEWPOINT]Public should enjoy art freely

Over the past, 5,000 years, our nation has formed a unique and excellent history and culture. We can understand the excellence of our national culture and arts through the frequent seizure of our cultural properties by surrounding powers in the past and through countless cultural properties on exhibition even now in the museums and art galleries of many countries, including Japan.
It is said that interest in our culture and cultural properties has increased recently, but the reality is that there is still a shortage of museums and art galleries that can tell the superiority of our culture.
As our country does not have a proper policy on the establishment of a museum and art gallery that can preserve our great cultural heritage, people have been making continuous requests for measures to improve that policy.
Registration of museums and art galleries transferred to local governments was in May 2003, and the procedures have eased a bit. In particular, a Type 1 Museum and Art Gallery can be registered if it has more than 100 works in its collection and if it is equipped with certain facilities.
But this criterion of “more than 100 works in the collection” is very ambiguous. Because of the strict limits on the number of works, individuals who have valuable cultural properties that are the equivalent of national treasures find it hard to establish a unique museum or art gallery because of the small number of items in their collection.
In particular, individuals who possess treasures keep most of them in secret places in their homes or in bank safes to avoid having them stolen. These cultural properties, which the Korean public should be able to enjoy, are hidden away from their eyes.
The irony is that we cannot see such great cultural works because they are valuable, which is the reality in today’s world of cultural properties.
For these cultural properties that are hidden like stolen goods to recover their original positions and to share their excellence with the public, the government should get rid of the rule that requires people who want to establish a museum to have more than 100 works.
In addition to revising this provision, more objective and strict criteria are needed in allowing the creation of a museum. For example, if an individual houses a few works whose value is outstanding, that person should be allowed to establish a special museum or art gallery regardless of how few collected works he or she has.
If all this is done, then precious cultural properties locked in closets and buried in the dark will be on display for the people’s enjoyment. And all the people who love culture and the arts, not just the owners, will have frequent opportunities to appreciate great artwork.
This will also be an important turning point for broadening the scope and opportunity of public appreciation of culture.
Also, when a museum or art gallery is built, the government needs to participate in its active management and maintenance to protect the nation’s cultural heritages. In this regard, when museums open, the government should devise systematic management methods at the national level by dispatching a regular curator or appointing a joint curator who manages several small museums at the same time.
Article 13, Chapter 4 and Article 24, Chapter 7 of the Museum and Art Gallery Promotion Act stipulate, “For registered museums and art galleries, the necessary expenses for establishment and the necessary expenses for operation can be assisted within the scope of the budget.” But in reality, the budget is very tight.
Museums and art galleries that feature regional works and collectors will in themselves be the foundation for enhancing the value of the Korean arts and culture along with the cultural properties they house.
To achieve these goals more effectively, the barrier to entry should be loosened through the revision of the regulation on the establishment of museums and art galleries. If the movement to establish more museums and art galleries is carried out subsequently, we will be able to hold more cultural events and our country will be able to be a cultural power more easily.

* The writer is an artist and the director of the Woo Je Gil Art Gallery. Translation by the JoongAng Daily staff.

by Woo Je-gil
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