Posted by: sojustar | February 23, 2009

Leeum Samsung Museum of Art


Escape the everyday mundaneness of Itaewon by heading into the world of art. A few minutes walk from Itaewon Station you will find Leeum Samsung Museum of Art. The museum houses two major exhibitions: Museum 1 for traditional Korean art and Museum 2 for contemporary and modern art.

Museum 1 was designed by Swiss architect Mario Botta who was inspired by Korean traditional porcelain. Jean Nouvel, an internationally acclaimed French architect designed Museum 2 using revolutionary materials to create a contemporary look. The entrance to the museum is reached by a wooden path displaying Japanese artist Tatsuo Miyajima’s Transcend Section installation, putting visitors in the mood for art!

When you walk into the museum you will first notice massive black columns in the lobby area. The entire space is white in colour creating a very relaxed atmosphere. Museum 1 houses various traditional Korean works including celadon ceramics from the Goreyoe Dynasty (12th century). The pieces on display show the transformation of pottery styles and techniques. Traditional Korean paintings are also on showcased including Chrysanthemums, a painting by Kim Hong Do, which dates back to the late 18th century. One floor of Museum 1 is dedicated to Buddhist art, where several pieces made of gold can be seen. Most eye catching were a pair of golden slippers. The main focal point of Museum 1 is the spiral staircase one has to go down in order to move from floor to floor: it is a good picture opportunity and creates nice diversion from the traditional art.

If you’ve already been to the National Museum of Korea, you might not find Museum 1 to be the most fascinating, luckily contemporary art lovers can get their visual fix at Museum 2. The Museum 2 houses a mix of pieces from various contemporary Korean and international artists. The tastefully assembled collection showcases massive works of art, mostly paintings, a few sculptures and installations. Great attention has been paid to the layout and lighting, creating a fantastic environment to really appreciate the art on display.

The elevator doors open on Kim Whan-ki’s Work 19-VIII-72, a huge cobalt blue abstract geometric piece from 1972, making a very good introduction to the 2nd floor Korean contemporary art collection. It displays paintings from internationally renowned artist Song Hyun-sook (the elegant and understated 8 Brush Strokes), a stunning black and white photograph from Bae Ben-u, Pine Trees, a subtle painting from Kim Hong Joo (Untitled). A humorous piece is the installation I Have To Learn English by Kang Ik Joong, it’s a series of wood carvings with English words on them, covering 3 walls of a small room. The artist, who immigrated to the United States with his family, took five years to complete this piece (1991-1996). An English lesson CD is playing in the background.

The 1st and B1 floors of Museum 2 house contemporary Western art, again tastefully chosen and displayed. Among the big names are Dubuffet, Beacon, Jean Arp, Willem de Kooning, Giacometti, blue lover Yves Klein, and there is also the rare treat of three Mark Rothko paintings side by side, by far one of the museum’s highlights. Another piece worth mentioning is the lavish black and gold Warhold 45 Marylins.

The quality and the ingenuity of the art in Museum 2, combined with the elegant display really make this venue a world class museum. A visit will take about 2 hours and can easily make an different afternoon activity prior to a nice dinner in Itaewon.

How to get there: Take subway Line 6 to Itaewon station and walk out exit 2.  Walk straight for 500 meters, pass the tourist information booth, turn left on the street between the Family Mart and the Audi dealership. Walk straight and at the fork, pass the mandu restaurant on your right and the samgyetang on your left; walk for a few more minutes and you’re there. Or alternatively, get off at Hangangjin station, exit one, walk straight for 400 meters and turn right on the Audi dealership street.

Entrance fee: Adults: 10 000 Won, Ages 7-18: 6 000 Won, Kids 3-6: Free.

Opening hours: Tuesdays-Sundays: 10:30 a.m. – 6 p.m.

Closed on Mondays.

Phone: (02) 2014-6901

Written in conjunction with Elise in Korea.

Photo by Elise


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