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Life & Arts

Lee Kun-hee’s art collection exhibited from this month in Seoul

Korea’s two representative museums will each present a uniquely themed exhibition with selected pieces

By Jul 20, 2021 (Gmt+09:00)

The lavish art collection donated by the Samsung Group following the death of group chairman Lee Kun-hee will be shown to the public from July 21.

The National Museum of Korea (NMK) and the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art (MMCA) will each hold a separate exhibition, showcasing different themes of artwork collected by Lee.

The NMK’s exhibition, “A Great Cultural Legacy: Masterpieces from the Bequest of the Late Samsung Chairman Lee Kun-hee,” will present a wide range of national treasures from different periods of Korean history.

Lee Kun-hee’s art collection exhibited from this month in Seoul 


“We are pleased to present Lee Kun-hee’s collection of major works that include national treasures recognized as the apex of Korea’s longstanding cultural heritage,” said the NMK.

The exhibition will run until Sept. 26 and visitors must book in advance on the museum’s website. The museum said a total of 77 works will be on display, including 12 national treasures and 16 treasures designated by  South Korean government bodies.

The national treasures to be exhibited at the NMK from tomorrow include those from the Bronze and Iron Ages, Buddhist statues from Korea’s Three Kingdoms period, celadon from the Goryeo dynasty and white porcelain from the Joseon dynasty.

Gilt-bronze Standing Bodhisattva Triad, the 134th national treasure of Korea, to be presented at the NMK
Gilt-bronze Standing Bodhisattva Triad, the 134th national treasure of Korea, to be presented at the NMK

The NMK representatives said that the chosen works, which were carefully selected among a total of 21,600 pieces donated by Samsung, convey Lee Kun-hee’s underlying philosophy on design and corporate management.   

On the other hand, the MMCA exhibition, “MMCA Lee Kun-hee Collection: Masterpieces of Korean Art,” will display 58 pieces of artwork by 34 key modern artists of Korea including Kim Whan-ki and Lee Jung-seob.

The MMCA exhibition will focus on presenting Korea’s representative modern art pieces.
The MMCA exhibition will focus on presenting Korea’s representative modern art pieces.

The Samsung Group donated a total of 1,488 pieces of art to Korea’s representative modern art museum.

The MMCA added that by 2022, it will carry out academic research on the artists, ingredients, material techniques and year of production of the donated artwork with an aim to establish a database of the Lee Kun-hee collection. The museum said that a full-fledged study on the 1,488 donated pieces will expand the scope of Korean art history.

Bull (1950) by Lee Jung-seob to be exhibited at the MMCA
Bull (1950) by Lee Jung-seob to be exhibited at the MMCA

“I would like to express my gratitude to the bereaved family of the late Samsung Chairman Lee Kun-hee for donating the artwork that he collected during the course of his lifetime, for the development of Korea’s cultural and art circles,” said the director of the MMCA, Youn Bum-mo.

In an official statement promoting the exhibition, the MMCA said that: “In terms of its economic and art history value, the collection could well be called the ‘donation of the century.’ Its 1,488 works of art run the gamut of 20th-century Korean art history, including the periods of the Japanese occupation and the Korean War, and will contribute greatly to filling gaps in our collection.”

The works donated to the MMCA are comprised of 1,369 Korean pieces and 119 overseas pieces.

Yellow Road (1983) by Chun Kyung-ja to be shown at the MMCA
Yellow Road (1983) by Chun Kyung-ja to be shown at the MMCA

The 58 pieces to be exhibited include early 20th-century works such as Peach Blossom Spring by Lee Sang-beom and mid-20th-century works such as Bull by Lee Jung-seop, Yellow Road by Chun Kyung-ja and A Thousand-Year-Old House by Rhee Seund-ja.

Write to Soo-young Seong at syoung@hankyung.com

Daniel Cho edited this article.

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