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Monday, May 3, 2021

'Encounters between Korean Art and Literature in the Modern Age' - Night at the Museum

For Korean culture, those were troubled and fascinating times; times of repression and expression, times of Western influences, Japanese occupation, and Korean affirmation. 

Those were modern times, and yet intemporal times. 

When young stars didn't just remain neatly aligned in their respective constellations. When pens and brushes blurred the lines between literature and modern art. With such a conjunction of talent, despair, hope, and urgency.

In a brilliant exhibition, MMCA brings us back to that era in - what better symbol? - its Deoksugung branch.

We see young minds avidly embrace the avant-garde, experiment with sometimes a French touch (Rene Clair, Jean Cocteau, JEONG Ji-yong's 'Cafe France'), we see painters and writers meet and collaborate, we see writers and critics become visual artists, we browse a mesmerizing library with rare first editions (KIM Sowol's Azaleas, MA Hae-song''s fairy tales illustrated by LEE Byung-hyun and KIM Jeong-hwan...), and scores of newspaper extracts - a bit like XIXth century Europe, Korea experienced a democratization of literature, only with a much more powerful poetic force. 

Strolling through the palace by night made the visit even more magical:

 A great exhibition, reminiscent of the exceptional tribute to LEE Jung-seob in the same building:

'Captivating LEE Jung-seob exhibition in MMCA Deoksugung, Seoul' (@theseoulvillage - 20160806 -

KIM Whanki takes a lot of space as he tends to do in collections, but the zeitgeist is much better framed by this 'Portrait of a friend': gifted artist GU Bon-ung capturing genius poet YI Sang:

If the mapping of this creative galaxy aptly remains focused on people always on the move (more than a few ended in North Korea), I couldn't help but imagine a Seoul Museum of History version featuring geographical maps. Just to see where all Guinhoe members lived, how far from Seochon or Yi Sang's Jebi Madang...

We know writers and painters can be artists, authors, neither, or both. And sometimes it runs in the family. PARK Taewon's grandson happens to be an author who can sketch, and even do decent movies (BONG Joon-ho).

Byeolgeongon July 1933 - cover art by HWANG Jeong-su

  • Encounters between Korean Art and Literature in the Modern Age at MMCA Deoksugung (Galleries 1 to 4): until May 30th, 2021, free entrance (except for the entrance to the palace).

Seoul Village 2021
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