As much as we’re always looking for new events and exhibitions to check out, we often forget the treasures we have in London permanently and the lovely museum folk who keep it updated so there’s always something new to see. Our last visit to the Victoria and Albert Museum Korea section was all the way back in 2012, so this weekend we decided to take a trip to good ol’ room 47g, located on the ground floor of the museum to the left of the gift shop. “Room” 47g is actually more of a corridor but it’ll be obvious when you spot the iconic Moon Jar towards the back of the exhibition.
The exhibition has many of the pieces we saw last time but with some new additions! During our last visit, we saw the beautifully decorated Korean chests and boxes as well as examples of the Onggi jars, which are still used today to store kimchi. But we complained a little about most things being from the Chosun Dynasty, but this time we see the ceramics section has expanded to cover some of the Goryeo (or Koryŏ) and even Silla Dynasty too. The ceramics section is cleverly laid out for you to see the evolution of Korean potters’ styles and techniques. We see some very early pieces from Silla Dynasty where the ceramics are kind of dark and modest, to the 1800s where they developed that iconic blue and white porcelain design.
The items on display in this exhibition are varied, meaning you get to discover a little of everything about Korea. There were many textiles on display, such as bridal panels from the backs and sleeves of a wedding garment, as well as vanity items from the Chosun and Goryeo Dynasties. From mirrors, hairpins and amulets to coin charms, the details and craftsmanship is extraordinary. We were particularly interested in the comb pins; beautiful pins crafted especially for the ladies of Korea to clean their combs with, Korea seriously thought of everything!
As well as all the historical items, room 47g also features quite a few contemporary pieces, the most exciting at the moment being the Lie Sang-Bong display. Lie Sang-Bong is considered to be one of the most innovative contemporary Korean fashion designers and his pieces are described as eccentric and poetic. Korean textiles and the art of making clothes have always been very unique and many of the original techniques are still used by modern day designers. On display at the V&A are two absolutely breathtaking dresses which reflect Korea’s iconic fashions with a modern twist. The pieces are said to be inspired from traditional textiles, Korean folk paintings, calligraphy, architecture, embroidery and even shamanism with his modern inspirations from Cubism, Bauhaus and film noir. The details and the pieces are especially intricate with the exquisite pleats said to be made with cutting-edge technology. If you are interested in more from Lie Sang-Bong, his work in ceramics can also be seen in Room 140 of the museum!
And of course the V&A has their very own Moon Jar on display. This contemporary Moon Jar was created by Park Young-sook in 2008 and is in the iconic milky white glaze. Park Young-sook is described as Korea’s foremost contemporary ceramic artist who has dedicated decades to perfecting her craft and thanks to the Korean Cultural Centre, we have learnt to appreciate the Moon Jar (달항아리); an item that has become a symbol of UK-Korea relations.
Course – Korea: Neolithic – Present 24 Feb – 31 Mar 2014
2014 also sees the continuation of the V&A’s Arts of East Asia: China; Korea and Japan course. 24th February 2014 sees the start of the term on Korea: Neolithic – Present. This is a 6 week term which ends on the 31st March 2014 and is dedicated to the Arts of Korea, covering many detailed studies of Korean Culture through art and sculpture:
The second part of this term is dedicated to the Arts of Korea. Through the detailed study of early tomb architecture and pictorial art, the relationship between Korean art and that of China and Japan will be explored. The advent of Buddhism sparked a distinctly Korean style of stone sculpture and religious art in paintings and manuscripts.
Life in later Korea is explored through traditional architecture and interiors, highlighting issues of gender and hierachies in society. Lacquer, furniture and textiles display a decorative repertoire and artistry rooted in Korean culture. The pictorial arts will also be examined in the context of literati paintings and genre painting.
Finally, Korean ceramics will be examined from the Koryŏ to the present. Long collected and admired within Asia, Korean ceramics were prized in the West by ceramicists such as Bernard Leach who valued their simple aesthetic. The V&A collection of stoneware and porcelains will form the mainstay of our study from historical pieces to those produced today.
Entrance to the V&A museum is free but attendance to this course costs money. You can either purchase a whole term or pay as you go and only attend the days that interest you. For a full course outline with details on day plans, download the PDF here or visit the V&A Museum website.
Although small, the Korea section at the V&A museum is detailed and informative and definitely worth a visit especially with the current Lie Sang-bong display! The really useful thing is an interactive screen, where you can learn about a few different aspects of Korean history and culture and the objects that are still on display. Also don’t forget about the large range of resources on the V&A website, including more information about the objects and some interesting videos on different aspects of Korean culture. For more pictures of the exhibit, make sure to visit our Facebook page and check out our photo albums.