New collections give museums chance to flaunt : Institutions energized by bold acquisitions and growing budgets

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New collections give museums chance to flaunt : Institutions energized by bold acquisitions and growing budgets


Clockwise from above left, Kim Whanki’s oil painting “Dawn #3”(1964-65), Kim Kichang’s color-on-silk painting “Quiet Listening”(1934) and Kim Eunho’s color-on-silk painting “Beauty” are part of the MMCA’s new collection. [MMCA]

Two major public museums - the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art (MMCA) and the Gyeonggi Museum of Modern Art (GMOMA) - recently began special exhibitions to show their new collections.

In particular, the MMCA has unveiled in the show at its Seoul branch Korean modern art master Kim Whanki’s abstract painting “Dawn #3” (1964-5), which the museum purchased at K Auction’s sale in September 2016 for 1.3 billion won ($1.14 million). It is the highest price the museum has ever paid for a single artwork to add to its collection.

MMCA director Bartomeu Mari said in an interview with the Korea JoongAng Daily a year ago, “Our criteria [for collection] will be quality and relationship with the history.” He also emphasized the importance of building a narrative for Korean art in the global context.

In accordance with the vision, the newly-acquired works featured by the exhibition titled “Samramansang: From Kim Whanki to Yang Fudong” reflect the shifts of formalism and mediums in Korean art history or show a deep relationship with the political and social environment.


Kim Eull’s mixed-media work “Beyond Painting”(2015) is part of Gyeonggi Museum of Art’s new collection. [GYEONGGI MUSEUM OF MODERN ART]

The exhibition consists of 121 of the 932 artworks acquired between 2013 and 2016.

“The exhibit title ‘Samramansang,’ which means ‘all things and all phenomena in the universe,’ was taken from a piece by Korean contemporary artist Kang Ikjoong to underscore the diversity of contemporary art and the boundlessness of artists’ expression, ranging from Korean artist Kim Whanki’s modern painting on display at Gallery 1 to Chinese contemporary artist Yang Fudong’s film pieces on view at Gallery 5,” said curator Park Mi-hwa.

The museum explained it was able to purchase the painting by Kim, now the most expensive Korean artist at international auctions, as the budget for new acquisitions increased to 5.3 billion won in 2016 from 4.6 billion won in 2015 and 3.6 billion won in 2014. The budget for this year is 6.1 billion won.

Meanwhile, GMOMA director Choi Eun-ju said in a press conference last month that, “A museum’s collection is its face.” She added the museum, located in Ansan city, Gyeonggi, focuses on quality, friendliness with the public and close relations with the regional community.

The main concern is reflected in the exhibition “The New Acquisitions” which features 40 works by 35 artists that the museum acquired between 2014 and 2016.

The annual budget for new collections of the provincial museum, which opened in 2007, is much smaller than the MMCA’s at around 100 million won. The annual budget for exhibitions is also small at 200 to 300 million won.

“Art exhibitions are not about money, but rather about ideas and plans,” said director Choi. “We are actively doing public art projects, including graffiti shows, which are in accordance with our identity. We have also provided consulting services of many local governments’ public art projects, which have become new source of income for us.”


The GMOMA exhibition runs through April 16. Admission is 4,000 won for adults. The museum is closed on Mondays. It is a 20 minute walk from Exit No. 1 of Choji Station on line No. 4. For details, visit or call (031) 481-7000.

The MMCA show runs through Aug. 13. Tickets cost 4,000 won for adults. It is a 10 minute walk from Anguk Station, line No. 3, exit No. 1. For more information, visit or call (02) 3701-9500.
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