Houston provides a home for Korean art

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Houston provides a home for Korean art

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A gold waist belt, left, and a gold crown from the Silla Kingdom (57 B.C. to A.D. 668) are on loan from the National Museum of Korea to the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston. Provided by the National Museum of Korea

A Korean art gallery will open in December at the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston, becoming the museum’s first permanent gallery for Korean art, and also the only museum gallery in the southwestern United States solely dedicated to Korean art. It will be located on the first floor of the museum’s Law Building, occupying 200 square meters, or 2,260 square feet.
The opening of the gallery became possible due to a loan of 37 traditional art pieces, including two “national treasures,” from the National Museum of Korea. The Houston museum is renovating the first floor of its Law Building to present Asian collections, and the museum spent $1.5 million to build the Korean art gallery. Another $1.5 million was donated by the Korea Foundation, Korean companies and Korean immigrants in Houston.
The loan from the National Museum of Korea includes ceramics, the art of the Neolithic period, Buddhist art and women’s personal ornaments. The two “national treasures” included in the loan are a gold crown and a gold waist belt from the Silla Kingdom (57 B.C. to A.D. 668), and will be loaned for three months. The other 35 pieces will be loaned for two years. The Korean gallery will be the museum’s first Asian art gallery. Galleries featuring works from China, Japan, India, Indonesia and Southeast Asia will follow. The Korean art gallery will also display a small number of Korean contemporary art pieces.
“So far, museums on the United States’ East and West coasts have shown an interest in Korean art, though [the Southwest] had [only] Japanese and Chinese collections,” said Kim Hong-nam, the director of the National Museum of Korea.
The Houston museum currently owns only four traditional Korean art pieces, which were given to the museum as gifts.
“Korean art is very rare in the United States. There is only a limited amount,” said Christine Starkman, the curator of Asian art at the museum. Ms. Starkman said because of the rarity of Korean art in the United States and the small amount of Korean art it owns, the museum decided to take out a loan from the National Museum of Korea.
“When the Korean art gallery opens in the museum, it will help raise interest in Korean art and there will be more Korean art collectors,” Ms. Kim said. “The Houston museum needs donations from Korean art collectors to increase the size of its collection.”
Presently 38 museums in 14 countries have Korean art collections outside Korea, and 15 museums in eight countries have a section dedicated to Korean art. The National Museum of Korea has been collaborating with a number of well-known institutions, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and the British Museum on special exhibitions, and upgrading existing Korean art collections. The National Museum of Korea has a total of 419 works of art loaned to museums outside Korea.


By Limb Jae-un Staff Writer [jbiz91@joongang.co.kr]
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