MMCA’s Cheongju branch specializes in storage: ‘Open’ and ‘visible’ storage democratize a museum’s collection

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MMCA’s Cheongju branch specializes in storage: ‘Open’ and ‘visible’ storage democratize a museum’s collection


Above and top right are the open storages of the new MMCA Cheongju, which opens today. Bottom right is curator Kwon Hee-hong explaining about a conservation laboratory that the public can see through glass walls. [MOON SO-YOUNG]

CHEONGJU, North Chungcheong - A new branch of the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art (MMCA) opens today in Cheongju, North Chungcheong. It is the museum’s fourth branch and focuses on storage, conservation laboratories and related education programs.

The new five-story branch will have about 20,000 square meters (4.9 acres) in total area in an old tobacco factory. It took two years to remodel and expand the factory. It has 10 storage areas, including two that are “open storage,” in the lexicon of museums, which the public can visit, and some “visible storage,” which the public can view through glass walls. It also has conservation laboratories, some of which the public can see through glass walls, a gallery and seminar rooms.

“Open or visible storage are increasingly popular in the world’s museums to solve the problem of shortage of warehouses and to democratize museum shows,” said Jang Yop, director of the preparation committee for the MMCA Cheongju in a press preview on Wednesday.

“In the open storage, the viewers encounter artwork without a curator’s intervention. Although it is important to see artworks in the context of a exhibition created by a curator, it is also a good experience for a viewer to meet artwork directly.”

The open storage on the first floor mainly has large-scale sculptures from the MMCA collection, including those of Kim Bok-jin, who was born in Cheongju. It also has sculptures by luminaries like Nam June Paik, Kiki Smith, Jean Dubuffet, Lee Bul and Do Ho Suh.

The open storage on the third floor has works from the government collection and works from the Art Bank, which loans them to public institutions and companies.

It is the first national art museum to open in the central region. The MMCA has moved some 4,000 art pieces from its collection of more than 10,000 pieces to the branch.

The opening exhibition, entitled “Star Counting Day: Story of You & Me,” will start today at the gallery located on the fifth floor. It features 23 paintings, sculptures and videos by important Korean contemporary artists, including Kimsooja and Im Heung-soon.

Asked why a museum focused on open and visible storage has a separate gallery for exhibitions, Jang explained, “The open storage shows mainly sculptures. And in storage, media art pieces and installation works cannot be shown in the ways the artists intend. So we have made a gallery to show these kinds of works and paintings to visitors to the MMCA Cheongju.”

The museum said the branch is also expected to play the role of an “art hospital” to restore, fix and clean old art works.

The former tobacco factory was built in 1946 and was operated until 2004. The MMCA signed a memorandum of understanding in 2012 with the city to renovate the factory and create a cultural space.

“The opening of the Cheongju branch will serve as a stepping stone for the MMCA to expand its reach beyond the metropolitan area,” the museum said in a statement.

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