Enriching Korean Art Museums in America

Want to explore Korean Art in your city?

Here are the most notable Korean Art Museums and Exhibitions in the USA.

Linguasia 10 Korean Art Museums in America

In the 1900’s, Korean art was mostly absent in American museums.

Now the landscape has changed dramatically with over 10 exhibitions showcasing Korean art in major museums across the United States.

The featured artworks span a wide range, from an early 12th-century stoneware to contemporary pieces like Lee Youngsil’s lacquer on wood creation, “Yeongchuksan Gamnodo (Nectar Ritual Painting)” (2022).

Exhibitions such as “The Shape of Time: Korean Art After 1989” at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and “Only the Young: Experimental Art in Korea, 1960s-1970s” at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York are not to be missed.

Upcoming shows include “Korea in Color: A Legacy of Auspicious Images” at the San Diego Museum of Art, opening on Oct. 28; “Lineages: Korean Art at the Met,” opening on Nov. 7 at the Metropolitan Museum of Art; and “Perfectly Imperfect: Korean Buncheong Ceramics,” on display at the Denver Art Museum from Dec. 3.

Notably, many of the curators behind these exhibitions are Korean-born or Korean American women who have long awaited this moment.

The explosion of Korean culture globally, from the Oscar-winning film “Parasite” to the popularity of “Squid Game” and K-pop, has added momentum to these exhibitions.

The San Diego Museum of Art is also capitalizing on this trend, featuring a K-pop dance troupe performing on its front steps. The exhibition explores how contemporary artists have adapted the polychrome painting tradition dating back to the Joseon Dynasty.

1. LACMA

lacma korean art

LACMA boasts the most extensive Korean art galleries among all museums in the United States. Currently on display are remarkable examples of Korean paintings, ceramics, textiles, and Buddhist art.

The ceramic collection spans nearly 2,000 years of Korean history, ranging from the Three Kingdoms Period (57 BCE–CE 668) to the present. The focus of the paintings is primarily on works from the Joseon dynasty (1392–1910).

Noteworthy ceramics include exquisite samples of Goryeo dynasty (918–1392) celadon wares, such as a Flower-shaped Cup Stand with Inlaid Flower Spray Design dating back to the 12th century. Another highlight is one of LACMA’s finest Korean folding screens portraying a banquet hosted by the ancient Daoist goddess Seowangmo, Queen Mother of the West—an embodiment of the cosmic yin (feminine) force in the yin-yang duality.

Los Angeles County Museum of Art
5905 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90036

2. Brooklyn Museum

brooklyn museum korean art

Brooklyn Museum’s groundbreaking compilation of Korean art stands as one of the most extensive and significant Korean collections in the United States. A curated selection now returns to public view in an expansive new gallery space, three times larger than its previous counterpart, showcasing numerous treasures never previously displayed.

At the heart of this cutting-edge exhibition are the radiant celadon ceramics from the Goryeo dynasty. Notable among them is a renowned ewer crafted in the likeness of a lotus bud, widely recognized as the finest Korean ceramic in the Western hemisphere.

The richness of the Brooklyn collection, encompassing golden earrings from the Silla kingdom to vibrant costumes, paintings, and furnishings from the Joseon dynasty, attests that the depth of Korean art extends far beyond the celebrated green wares.

Brooklyn Museum
200 Eastern Parkway Brooklyn, New York 11238-6052

3. JSMA (Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art)

jsma korean art gallery

The JSMA hosts a modest yet impressive collection comprising over 350 Korean artworks, including paintings, calligraphy, ceramics, metalwork, textiles, furniture, prints, and photographs.

Featured in successive rotations within the museum’s appealing Wan Koo and Young Ja Huh Wing and Jin Joo Gallery, these selections provide a diverse showing of Korean art. As one of only two university museums in the United States with specialized galleries dedicated to Korean arts, the JSMA takes pride in presenting rotations of both historic and contemporary objects.

Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art
1430 Johnson Lane, Eugene, OR 97403

4. Harvard Art Museum

harvard korean art museum

The Korean art collection at the Harvard Art Museums comprises more than 700 objects, spanning from Silla-kingdom pottery to pieces by modern and contemporary artists like Do Ho Suh, alongside an assortment of over 700 ceramic sherds.

Noteworthy masterpieces within the collection include the exquisite Water-moon Avalokiteshvara painting, one of the largest remaining works in this genre, and the gilt bronze portable Buddhist shrine, both dating back to the 14th century.

The collection’s strengths lie in high-fired grey stoneware from the Three Kingdoms period (37 BCE-668 CE), the renowned celadon from the Koryŏ period (918-1392), and literati ink paintings from the mid- to late-Chosŏn period (1392–1910).

The Harvard Art Museums hold what is arguably the premier collection of Korean art among U.S. universities and one of the most notable Korean holdings in North American institutions.

Harvard Art Museums
32 Quincy Street Cambridge, MA 02138

5. Peabody Essex Museum

peabody essex museum

The Yu Kil-chun Gallery unveils the profound roots of Korean art embedded in the nation’s culturally rich heritage. On display are ceremonial regalia used at the royal court and in religious practices, along with exquisite works that adorned the homes of the Korean gentry.

This remarkable collection, with a focus on art from the nineteenth century, was established by Edward S. Morse who played a key role in building significant collections of Asian art in Boston-area museums.

Peabody Essex Museum
East India Square, 161 Essex Street, Salem, MA 01970

Lingua-Asia_Line_Lotus

6. Smithsonian

smithsonian korean art

Smithsonian has a long history of curating Korean art pieces beginning with Korean ceramics from the Joseon period (1392–1910). The collection was expanded to include celadons from the Goryeo dynasty (918–1392), once decorating palaces, Buddhist temples, and the homes of the aristocracy. The same aristocratic patrons also commissioned exquisite Buddhist paintings, including three rare examples now housed in the museum.

Smithsonian now houses nearly 500 Korean art objects, including around 130 Goryeo and 80 Joseon ceramic pieces. When the Freer Gallery of Art opened in 1923, Freer’s compilation of Korean art was widely regarded as unparalleled in both quality and historical breadth.

Smithsonian
1050 Independence Ave. SW, Washington, DC 20013

7. Philadelphia Museum of Art

Philadelphia Museum of Art korean exhibition

The Philadelphia Museum of Art has an exhibition of works by contemporary artists of Korean descent in a dynamic installation that interprets individual artistic practices through the shared memories of a generation that experienced South Korea’s authoritarian regime and was the first to embrace its newfound democratic freedoms.

Born between 1960 and 1986, many of these artists received training in Europe and the United States, immersing themselves in Euro-American ideals while navigating the transformative period in Korea.

These artists manipulate time, exploring the past, present, and future, sometimes within the same artwork, to comprehend their intricate cultural experiences.

This exhibition marks the first significant presentation of Korean contemporary art in the United States since 2009. While many of the artists are well-known in South Korea or have gained international recognition, others are being introduced to audiences beyond Korea, particularly in American museums, for the first time.

Philadelphia Museum of Art
2600 Benjamin Franklin Parkway, Philadelphia, PA 19130

8. The San Diego Museum of Art

san diego museum of art Kim-Chonghak-Metamorphosed-Peony

The San Diego Museum of Art holds a special exhibition Korea in Color: A Legacy of Auspicious Images, which sheds light on the use of color in Korean painting—known as polychrome painting (chaesaekhwa)—and its role in Korean culture.

The exhibition will make its U.S. debut at The San Diego Museum of Art after traveling from the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Gwacheon in South Korea (MMCA).

Fifty works of art from multiple lenders span a variety of media, including paintings, videos, and installations, many of which have never before been on view in the U.S.

The exhibition is selected and co-organized by The San Diego Museum of Art, the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Korea, and the Korean Cultural Center of Los Angeles.

It is co-curated by Rachel Jans, Ph.D., Associate Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art at SDMA, and Kihye Shin, Associate Curator at MMCA. The exhibition will be accompanied by a full-color catalogue and various public programming, including a grand opening celebration, studio art workshops, and a free community event called “On the Steps at SDMA.”

The San Diego Museum of Art
1450 El Prado, Balboa Park, San Diego, CA

9. Asian Art Museum

The Asian Art Museum has been a leading advocate for the promotion and collection of Korean art and culture beyond Korea’s borders. The museum’s unique Korean art collection, showcased in the Koret Korea Galleries, boasts over 800 objects.

Notably, it is renowned for its Goryeo dynasty (918–1392) celadons, along with rare unglazed stonewares from the Three Kingdoms period (57 BCE–668 CE) and Unified Silla period (668–935). The collection encompasses a significant array of paintings and bojagi (wrapping cloths), and it holds the largest number of mother-of-pearl lacquerwares from the Joseon dynasty (1392–1910) in the United States.

There’s also a tea exhibition providing insights into cha (tea) and darye (etiquette for tea). Tea has always transcended being a simple beverage, fostering the appreciation of music, poetry, dance, and painting as integral components of tea ceremonies, particularly among the elite and the royal court of Korea.

Asian Art Museum
200 Larkin Street San Francisco, CA 94102

10. The Cleveland Museum of Art

cleveland museum of art korean exhibit

The Korean art collection at the Cleveland Museum of Art is another recognized as one of the most distinguished outside of Korea. The earliest additions to the collection included Goryeo dynasty (918–1392) celadons donated by the Severance family, notable for their pivotal role in establishing the first modern hospital and medical school in Korea.

Since 1915, the museum has actively expanded and deepened the collection’s scope, resulting in a diverse array of works spanning from the Three Kingdoms period (57 BCE–668 CE) to the present.

The collection’s notable strengths include 16th-century landscape hanging scrolls, 18th- and 19th-century folding screens, and metal works from the Goryeo period. Recent acquisitions, encompassing both historical and contemporary works, further enhance Korean art’s prominence as an emerging strength within the museum’s collection.

The Cleveland Museum of Art
11150 East Boulevard, Cleveland, OH 44106

Did we miss anything?

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