In cooperation with the National Palace Museum of Korea, the Korea Foundation invited curators in charge of Korean art collections at overseas museums to the tenth Workshop for Korean Art Curators (September 22-October 1). This year’s workshop, which featured a theme of “Royal Court Culture of Korea,” included the participation of 42 curators from 41 museums, in 15 countries, including the Smithsonian Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, Guimet Museum, and Tokyo National Museum.
During this year’s ten-day workshop, based on a theme of “Royal Court Culture of Korea,” the participants acquired in-depth knowledge about Korea’s culture and art through visits to cultural/historic sites and exhibitions on relevant themes, as well as lecture presentations by specialists of Korea’s royal court culture, on such subjects as rituals, philosophy, court documents like uigwe (protocol guidelines) and sillok (annals), court painting, architecture, formal attire, and science. The program itinerary also included a visit to Gaeseong, the ancient capital of the Goryeo Kingdom in North Korea, to view various aspects of Goryeo culture that are not available in the South.
In addition, the curators conducted a seminar, under a title of “Korean Galleries Overseas: Achievements and Prospects,” in conjunction with the National Museum of Korea, Cultural Heritage Administration of Korea, and National Research Institute of Cultural Heritage, to provide a venue to assess and exchange information on the current status of Korean galleries at museums abroad.
Since 1999, the Workshop for Korean Art Curators has been organized annually by the Korea Foundation to provide Korean art curators at overseas museums, a majority of whom are non-Koreans, with an opportunity to acquire more detailed information about Korean art and culture, and build personal networks with relevant figures in Korea and abroad. Although the number of Korean galleries at foreign museums has seen a steady increase in recent years, few of these museums retain curators who specialize in Korean art, which typically results in having their Chinese, Japanese, or Asian art curators assume responsibility for the Korean galleries and art collections.
In response to this situation, the annual two-week workshop sessions in which foreign curators attend intensive lectures by Korean specialists and participate in onsite study tours, related to designated themes, have been recognized as an effective educational program for the curators in charge of Korean galleries and art collections. Over the nine years of this program, 253 curators from 23 countries have participated in the workshop sessions. Moreover, 18 curators have attended five separate sessions, along with 38 who have participated in three workshops. As a result of their workshop experiences, the curators of ten museums have since organized special exhibitions and outreach programs on Korean culture and art.
Prior to 1980, the number of Korean art galleries at overseas museums stood at 15. Thereafter, thanks to the efforts of the Korea Foundation and related organizations, there has been a dramatic increase in the galleries dedicated to Korean art in museums worldwide, during the 1990s. Currently, Korean galleries or sections are featured at some 50 prestigious museums around the world, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (opened June 1998), the British Museum (November 2000), Guimet Museum (January 2001), Smithsonian Institution National Museum of Natural History (June 2007), and the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (December 2007). The Foundation is also providing assistance to the University of Michigan Museum of Art for the establishment of its Korean gallery, which is slated to open in 2009.