Sights in Seoul: The Leeum Samsung Museum
For those of you who were wondering what my Giant Spider Silent Sunday photo was
|Warning: I've heard that these sculptures are no longer on display and can't find any reference to them on the website, so it's possible the exhibit has moved on.|
The above photo comes to you via the Leeum Samsung Museum of Art, which is where MrLogical and I spent a few (alright, more than a few) Wednesdays ago (Korean Liberation Day) when we had the day off and
|Main Lobby of the Museum|
The entrance leads to a large, spacious lobby that contains a cafe' and gift shop as well as entrances to the three galleries: Museum 1 and Museum 2 (permanent exhibits), and the Samsung Child Education and Cultural Center, which is also the area where the temporary exhibits are housed. We bought a combined (discounted) ticket to all three exhibits, but you may buy a ticket to any one of the three exhibits - there is a ticket-taker at each of the exhibit entrances, and you'll have to show your ticket at each entrance.
Note: taking photos is not allowed in any of the exhibits, although you are permitted to photograph the entrance area, gift shop, and the rest of the building. It's worth noting that the building itself is a work of art, both inside and out.
|Entrance to the Samsung Child Education and Cultural Center|
We started in the Samsung Cultural Center, which typically houses temporary exhibits, and which, when we were there, was featuring a number of pieces of video art, including our personal favorite: a series of four wall-mounted video screens, simultaneously showing a man doing the Sun Salute in four vastly different settings, including the middle of a rice paddy. In one, he was in a littered side street in what looked like downtown Seoul, early in the morning when the only other people out were street cleaners and the drunks who were heading home after a hard night of soju-drinking and noraebang (karaoke). Considering the fact that he was barefoot, wearing a black business suit, and doing yoga in the middle of a street while being filmed at 5 or 6 am in downtown Seoul, he got relatively few stares.
The main temporary exhibit - which was what originally caught my attention - was displayed in the Black Box theater: a Media Art piece by Pippilotti Rist, which was entitled Spear to Heaven. Basically, it consisted of a darkened room full of hanging translucent sheets of fabric, upon which were superimposed a variety of video images, including one really beguiling sheep in a supersaturated green meadow (my personal favorite.) The images shone onto - and through - the fabric sheets, which you wandered among in the darkened room to the accompaniment of a slightly otherworldly soundtrack and the hushed silence of the viewers. Occasionally, you'd find yourself looking at your own shadowed silhouette superimposed onto a transparent image, which - as we later understood - was the point of the whole thing. While MrL and I don't quite sink to the level of having a tapestry of poker-playing dogs on our living room wall, neither are we exactly on the cutting edge when it comes to art appreciation. Coming from the generation that we do, walking around a darkened room with the swaying fabric, eerie background sounds, and odd video images only made us speculate on the fact that anyone under the influence of a hallucinogenic substance would probably get his or her money's worth in that exhibit. That being said, it was still An Experience, and I'm sure we were the better for it.
|Entrance to Museum 2- Modern Art|
Having absorbed Ms. Rist's work to the best of our ability, we headed back to the main lobby, where we entered the second Gallery ("Museum 2") which houses a permanent collection of modern works, that include a number of well-known artists in a variety of media. This collection - our favorite - included sculpture, photography, and video pieces as well as more conventional paintings. The architecture of this part of the gallery is beautifully designed to set off the work, and huge windows strategically placed throughout frame exterior views of the building and its grounds (including those fabulous spiders) as pieces of art in their own right. We spent the longest time in this gallery, and absolutely fell in love with the photography of Korean artist Bien-U Bae, whose haunting Pine Tree Seriescaptivated us both.
The third gallery ("Museum 1") contained traditional Korean art, running the gamut from breathtakingly old and fragile celadon ceramic pieces to ceremonial Buddhist statues, to works of traditional calligraphy and art. The museum owns a number of 'treasures' - works designated by the Korean government as historically, artistically, or culturally signficant to the people and culture of Korea - which are accordingly marked. Especially nice for non-Koreans are the English-language descriptions of the pieces, which were very helpful to us. The Buddhist art - statues, pagodas, incense burners - was especially fascinating to us as Westerners, as was much of the painting and calligraphy, which included black-and-white manuscripts, sketches, and drawings as well as maps and watercolors. This gallery was - as were all of them - on three floors; in this one, you started on the 3rd floor, and worked your way down via a circular stairwell which was as much a part of the art as anything in any of the galleries:
All of the exhibits eventually lead you back to the main lobby, where there is a cafe':
and, of course, a gift shop:
MrL and I drooled for a bit over a coffee-table book collection of Bien U-Bae's photographs, but eventually decided that we'd rather put the money toward buying some of his prints. Thus, we left, empty-handed but very happy that we'd found this museum - practically on our back doorstep.
The Leeum Samsung Museum of Art is located in Hanam-dong, across the street and a few blocks west and north of the Hangangjin subway station and Yongsan International School of Seoul (YISS.) It is approximately a 10-minute walk from the subway station, and is well-marked by signs in both English and Korean. Parking is very limited, so public transport is recommended. More information is provided at the link above.