Top Korean collection in Europe at the Grassi

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Top Korean collection in Europe at the Grassi

LEIPZIG ― The Far East gallery of the Grassi Museum for Angewandte Kunst Leipzig is expected to open next March.
The gallery occupies 300 square meters, or 3,229 square feet, and will display cultural materials from Korea as well as northeast Russia and Manchuria. Artifacts from the Far East are being installed one by one. Dr. Ingo Nentwig, 46, the Asian arts director and curator, is busy preparing for the opening.
“I will make an effort to form the best Korean cultural collection in Europe,” Dr. Nentwig said. The gallery will display cultural items from Korea, including ondol, a Korean-style heated floor. The Grassi Museum already has East Asian, South Asian, Southeast Asian and North Asian galleries.
The gallery had a pre-opening display of Korean objects for journalists on Sept. 15. An ink water bottle, jade stamp and ink stone with phoenix engravings were included. These pieces had previously been kept in the museum’s storage room due to a budget shortage and lack of attention.
“These artifacts are from collections that belonged to Zenger, a Hamburg native who worked as a customs official in Joseon in the late 19th century, and Paul Georg von Mollendorf, the first foreigner appointed to the level of vice minister. The collections include a number of pieces sent from North Korea in the early 1950s.
“There are more than 2,000 Korean items in the museum’s collection,” Dr. Nentwig said. “They haven’t been sorted, but there are priceless objects from the late Joseon dynasty.”
Dr. Nentwig recently curated an exhibition entitled “Sky, Earth and Man,” by calligraphist Jeong Do-jun. The curator is actually a specialist on China but is also very interested in Korea.
“Dr. Nentwig has a profound knowledge of Chinese characters and is familiar with East Asian history and cultures,” said Roh Tae-gang, the head of the Korean Cultural Center in Germany.
Dr. Nentwig’s relationship with Korea began while he studied in China under an ethnic Korean professor. “Since I learned the mythology of Dangun, the founding father of Korea, I became interested in Korean culture,” he said.
Also a fan of Korean food, when asked what Korean dishes he likes best, Dr. Nentwig said, “kimchi and minced raw beef are good.”

by Ryu Kwon-ha
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