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Korea Europe Center (KEC) Special Lecture Series 2022 - Collecting and Preserving Korean Art in Europe

The Korea-Europe Center invites you to the 2022 Special Lecture Series: Collecting and Preserving Korean Art in Europe

KEC Special Lecture Series 2022 - Collecting and Preserving Korean Art in Europe

KEC Special Lecture Series 2022 - Collecting and Preserving Korean Art in Europe

A special lecture series Collecting and Preserving Korean Art in Europe is dedicated to both past a present destinies of Korean art and artefacts within the European, or in more broader sense Western, cultural and institutional discourse.

Since the first contacts with the Korean art at the end of the nineteenth century, many European institutions or collectors in various countries has developed significant collections of Korean cultural artefacts. The presents lecture series strives to discuss origins, purpose and current status of these collections within the contemporary debates on colonial and post-colonial cultural heritage but also from the perspectives of relations between Korean Studies and art history. The lecture series pays attention evenly to pre-modern, modern and contemporary aspects of the field with topics ranging from Chosŏn paintings, Korean Buddhist artefacts or North Korean art collections to envisioning an institutional frame for the future oriented Korean art representation.


(1) Tuesday, 22 November 2022, 6:00-7:30 pm (CET)

Koreanische Exportmalerei aus der späten Joseon-Dynastie: Gisan Genrebilder als Kulturvermittler in europäischen Sammlungen


Katharina Süberkrüb (Doctoral candidate, Korean Studies, Asien-Afrika-Institut, Universität Hamburg, Germany)


Many of the export paintings from Joseon’s Open Ports Period (1876-1910) are known to have been either painted by [Gisan] Kim Jun-geun or produced in his workshop. These works today are scattered around European museums and other institutions. Diplomats, merchants, and collectors who visited Joseon scrambled to buy genre paintings, with Joseon folkways as their theme, and the works were whisked away to Europe. The export paintings served as “diplomatic articles,” facilitating a way to inform outsiders about Korean customs and culture. This lecture compares individual works as well as different collections of export paintings and their provenances. For this, it introduces a new digital approach to study Korean export paintings. Furthermore, it explores transcultural influences on the image of Korean culture in Europe.

(2) Tuesday, 6 December 2022, 6:00-7:30 pm (CET)

Encounter the Korean Buddhist collections from the Musée Guimet: their history and masterpieces


Bryan Sauvadet (PhD candidate at the Université Paris Cité, Research Center for China, Korea and Japan, Paris, France)


Since 1891, after the transfer of Charles Varat’s collection, the Musée Guimet conserves and presents one of the most important collections of Korean art pieces in the continent. In 1893, the first Korean gallery was opened in the museum. Later, different donations were received by the museum. The development of the Korean collections in the Musée Guimet agrees with the French Korean diplomacy history and the interest of French people in Korea. This lecture will shortly present the history of this unique collection in relation with the history of French Korean diplomacy. Then, it will focus on the analyze of some Buddhist masterpieces from the Korean collections in the Musée Guimet and how those art pieces can be mobilized in Korean Buddhist art history research.

(3) Thursday, 8 December 2022, 6:00-7:30 pm (CET)

Collecting and Exhibiting Korean Art in Hungary: Focussing on Goguryeo mural replicas from North Korea and a Beauty portrait from Joseon era


Beatrix Mecsi (Associate Professor, Head of the Department of Korean Studies at the Institute of East Asian Studies, at Eötvös Loránd University (ELTE) in Budapest)


Two different types of paintings will be introduced in the talk that ended up in the collection of the Ferenc Hopp Museum of Asian Art, Budapest. Through these objects we show the circumstances of their acquisition and the history of their reception. The first example is a group of life size copies of the wall paintings of the Anak 3 tomb from Goguryeo, commissioned by a Hungarian diplomat in North Korea in 1950s by contemporary North Korean painters, while the other is a rare standing woman portrait from the Joseon period which came to the museum from the private collection of the renown Hungarian architect and designer Lajos Kozma (1844-1948), who purchased it in Paris. This woman portrait is a type that until now only seven such woman portraits remained for us including Korea. It can be proved – by comparing it to a similar but dated painting coming from a Japanese private collection revealed in 2008 – that in the time of its creation the ideology of Neoconfucianism was all-pervasive and made the painters (whose names usually not known) use the well-accepted themes even when they wished to present beautiful ladies in a formal, bigger painting. (Normally beautiful ladies were represented on album leaves, a more intimate format.) When such a beauty portrait was chosen to be presented at the Paris World Exposition in 1900, it had a different meaning, showing Korean types of people and clothing. However, when this portrait was shown in Hungary in an exhibition in 1911, we can witness the impact of its artistic expressions on the artists active at the time of its arrival, more notably on the painter József Rippl-Rónai (1861-1927).

In the case of the copies of the 4th century Anak 3 tomb murals, we can see an interesting phenomenon: the copies begin to appear in foreign exhibitions. The idea of making copies of tomb murals stemmed from the colonial period, when the Japanese art historian Sekino Tadashi (1867-1935) promoted the production of replicas for study purposes of the art of the newly conquered territories. Later, North Koreans started to use them for their own political agenda, and especially the Anak 3 tomb paintings which played an important role by showing the everyday life of Goguryeo people. The interpretations emphasized that they were “Korean”, taking a firm position in the debate of their identity. Similar issues are raised by the revived interest in the Goguryeo mural replicas by South Korean scholars from the 2000s, again emphasizing the identity opposed to China's North Asia-policy, aiming for their role in preserving Korean Cultural heritage.

When such objects are shown in Hungary, far away from the place of their creation, they represent a culture, and – depending on the context of the exhibition – they can take on more and different aspects, enriching our views on Korea and revealing different receptions of its culture.

(4) Thursday, 15 December 2022, 6:00-7:30 pm (CET)

Looking for the Grail: Collectors and their Collections of North Korean Art in Europe


Dr. Koen De Ceuster  (University Lecturer at the Leiden University Institute for Area Studies)


Ever since artwork from the Mansudae Art Studio came under UN Security Council sanctions in August 2017, and Paekho Art Studio since April 2022, North Korean art has literally become a forbidden fruit. Well before that time, DPRK art already held that aura for a handful of collectors who discovered North Korea, essentially since the establishment of diplomatic relations with EU countries. Not hindered by any particular knowledge about North Korea or its art, they fell for the exotic appeal of what they encountered. Some saw merit in the socialist realist tradition of North Korean art, others fell for the classically trained craftsmanship of North Korean artists. In all cases, however, these collectors were convinced they had stumbled across something unique that would repay itself handsomely in the event of a North Korean collapse. Interestingly, North Korea has skilfully managed this interest, making North Korean fine art indeed into a foreign currency earning instrument. At the same time, aside from the British Museum, no European museum has yet made any direct purchases, and exhibitions of North Korean art remain rare events. Furthermore, in the absence of a secondary market for North Korean art the investment of the collectors has not yet paid off.

In this lecture, a handful of European collectors will be introduced, the history of their collections discussed, and in the broader context of art in North Korea as it is and as we think we know it situated.


Offline event in German and English.


22 November until 15 December 2022
Tuesdays and Thursdays,
6:00-7:30pm CET


Institute of Korean Studies,
Otto-von-Simson Str. 11
14195 Berlin


Prof. Vladimir Glomb

Weitere Informationen

Prof. Vladimir Glomb (vladous2000@yahoo.com)