"All journeys have secret destinations of which the traveler is unaware." Martin Buber
At the end of June I'm off again, for three weeks at a university in South Korea and a visit to Kyoto, Japan, then in August we will be in Guatemala looking at one of the world's greatest challenges: how to grow a lot of food sustainably on small farms. Come along!
Sunday, August 4, 2013
Korea # 20: The Leeum, Samsung Museum of Art, Seoul
Looking out onto the sculpture garden in the top photo, looking back to the museum itself in the bottom one:
number of museums, this nine-year-old beauty in Seoul is itself a major work of
art.Or rather three works of art by
stands by its own name but it is the creation of the Samsung Foundation for
Korean Culture so is usually referred to as “The Leeum, Samsung Museum of Art.”Located off a busy street in the central city,
next to a pleasant park and below a Hyatt Hotel, it can easily occupy an
It has three parts, each designed by one of three European architects, Museum 1, by Swiss
architect Mario Botta, which is built as a cone and an inverted cone and
features Korean art through history; Museum 1 by Frenchman Jean Nouvel, composed
of giant steel-clad cubes next to a deeply sunk garden, which features modern
art; and the Samsung Child Education and Culture Center by Dutch architect Rem
Koolhaas, which is largely underground and understated.
An attempt to give a feel for the sunken garden of Museum 2, first looking at a courtroom wall through a gallery window:
Then into the same space from above:
Then into part of that space from the sculpture garden:
This fabric greets you coming out of Museum 1 into the central plaza of the museum.
in bronze and other metals centered around Buddhism from the 4th to
the 8th centuries is quite strong; however a form of ceramic called
Celadon, created from the 8th century forward, is recognized as
among the world’s finest.White to
off-white in color, Celadon’s delicate design, tiny incisions and radiant
glazes on small pieces are best appreciated up close.This the Leeum provides under superb
lighting and with few enough examples that you want to slow down and spend time
with each of them, remembering they are well over 1,000 years old in most cases. After a few hundred years
small figures and stronger designs emerge on the work and the light green we associate with
an era o Chinese pottery appears.
blends major world figures with modern Korean work.My photography does little justice to it so I
offer limited examples.
The content is
constantly changing as the foundation must have a large collection, begun by Samsung’s
founder, Hoam Lee Byung-chui and continued by its present chairman, Lee
reserved for traveling exhibits is showing 114 pieces byAlexander Calder.I knew Calder as a painter and sculpture of
stationary objects and as the inventor of mobiles as art but I had not
appreciated his full merit.
humor, lightness, freedom, variety and delight!This tour guide had a rapt audience.
examples of his work follow, again subject to my poor photography ut perhaps
to convey a feel.
False snake, above, how to build a mobile below:
host directed me to the Leeum once I said I was interested in art but he wanted
me to know that Samsungdid it to avoid
taxes.Well, no doubt, and a lot of
taxes it must have saved but the collection was begun to preserve Korea’s legacy
in art 77 years ago and certainly succeeded on that score.That it invests major money in art and its
exhibition makes it no different than major corporations, or their leaders, in
other countries and civilizations.New
York City’s philanthropists give primarily to the arts, not the poor, and in
massive amounts.Samsung has done no
less and has done it well.