Lee Kun-hee’s art collection to go on display again to mark 1st anniv. of donation

SEOUL-- Two national museums will open a joint exhibition of artworks donated by late Samsung Chairman Lee Kun-hee on Thursday in commemoration of the first anniversary of the donation.

Co-hosted by the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Korea (MMCA), the exhibit, titled "A Collector's Invitation," will run till Aug. 28 at the special gallery of the National Museum of Korea (NMK), the museum said.

A year ago, Lee's family donated around 23,000 art pieces, including masterpieces by Korean and Western artists, such as Kim Whan-ki, Claude Monet and Salvador Dali, to the NMK, MMCA and five public galleries around the country. Lee died in October 2020.

The artworks had been collected by the late entrepreneur who said he considered collecting and preserving cultural heritage a duty of the times in his speech to the opening ceremony of the Leeum Museum of Art, one of the top private museums in South Korea, in 2004.

The two national museums, which own most of the items from the Lee collection, opened exhibitions in July to showcase the cream of the collection, at the Seoul gallery of MMCA and the NMK in Yongsan, central Seoul. The MMCA exhibition is still under way as the institution extended the popular event, which has reportedly drawn about 100,000 visitors, two times to June 6.

Unlike the special exhibitions held last year, however, the upcoming exhibit at NMK will allow people to easily enjoy the essence of Lee's vast art collection in a single visit.

"Tomorrow is the first anniversary of the donation of Lee's massive art collection to the state," Hwang Hee, minister of culture, sports and tourism, said during a press tour of the exhibition Wednesday. "This exhibit was designed to shed light on the extraordinary view of the world by the late chairman, who loved culture and art, and commemorate the noble intention behind his donation."

On display will be 355 items of metal, clayware, wood furniture, sculptures, calligraphy and oil paintings from the prehistoric times to the 21st century, a number far more than 135 showcased during the two previous exhibitions.

They include Korean and Western masterpieces, such as "Inwangjesaekdo (Clearing after Rain on Mount Inwang)," an iconic Joseon-era landscape painting by Jeong Seon (1676-1759), Claude Monet (1840-1926)'s "Water Lily Pond," Korean abstract master Kim Whan-ki (1913-1974)'s "Work" and Korean painter Lee In-sung (1912-1950)'s "A Woman in Yellow."

Also among the 355 items are 13 national treasures, including Jeong Seon's "Inwangjesaekdo" and "Ilgwangsamjonsang," a gilt-bronze standing Buddha triad thought to be from the sixth century during the Three Kingdoms period.

Some of the major paintings will go on display for only one or two months out of fear that they may be damaged from long exposure to lighting.

For instance, visitors can see "Inwangjesaekdo" from April 28 to May 31 and "Chuseongbudo (Sound of Autumn)" by famous Joseon-era painter Kim Hong-do (1745-1806), from June 1 to June 30.

"We pondered a lot over how to help visitors easily understand Lee Kun-hee's collection," Lee Ae-ryung, head of the fine arts department at the NMK, said during the press event. "Since most of the artworks in the exhibit have been introduced to the public, we tried to effectively show the various and vast collection."

Tickets can be reserved at the e-commerce website Interpark and be purchased on-site. Reservations began a month ago, and all tickets for this and next month have sold out. Tickets for June can be booked from 2 p.m. on Monday.

Source: Yonhap News Agency