Elegant design, classic lines in Joseon furniture

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Elegant design, classic lines in Joseon furniture


Wooden furniture from the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910) is known for being simple yet dignified, elegant but not excessive. Its classic lines are emblematic of the period while also containing elements of modern furniture design.

An exquisite collection of furniture from Korea’s last dynasty is now being shown at the JnB Gallery at the Horim Art Center in Sinsa-dong, southern Seoul. The Horim Art Center is a branch of the Horim Museum, a major private museum.

The exhibition focuses on design rather than on social classifications associated with the furniture’s use, such as status or gender, as similar exhibitions have done in the past.

To highlight the pieces’ design features, the furniture collection is shown in special sections for “lines and surfaces,” “decorations” and “grain.”

The “lines and surfaces” section, for example, showcases the straight lines and defined partitions in the writing tables, book shelves, medicine cabinets and wardrobes on display, maximizing both form and function in the individual furniture pieces.


This wooden shelf, top, and chest of drawers, above, show the simplicity of design in Joseon Dynasty furniture. [YONHAP]

Although most of the furniture from this era was made entirely of wood, some pieces also incorporate pieces of feldspar or carved ornaments. These decorative flourishes cover structural imperfections or are symbolic.

Korean wood is known for having a fine grain, owing to the fine rings in trees that have developed through Korea’s four seasons.

To preserve the natural beauty of the wood, Joseon-era furniture designers arranged the wood pieces to make the grain symmetrical, and they used only a touch of wax or color on the surface. Pieces such as stationery drawers and tables show the beauty of the wood grain to great effect.

A series of cabinets, cases and small portable dining tables round out the collection.

*The exhibition will be held until Oct. 24. The exhibit is open from 10:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. on weekdays but to 8 p.m. on Wednesdays. The gallery is closed on Mondays. Admission is 8,000 won ($7.15) for adults and 5,000 won for people ages 7 to 18 and seniors. Go to Sinsa Station, line No. 3, exit 1, or Gangnam-gu Office Station, line No. 7, exit 4, and walk 10 minutes south. For more information, call (02) 541-3525 or visit www.horimartcenter.org.

By Lee Kyung-hee [estyle@joongang.co.kr]
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