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Lee Kun-hee's art collection likely to be exhibited abroad in 2024 or 2025

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Yoon Sung-yong, director-general of the National Museum of Korea, speaks during a press conference held at the museum in central Seoul, Thursday. Yonhap
Yoon Sung-yong, director-general of the National Museum of Korea, speaks during a press conference held at the museum in central Seoul, Thursday. Yonhap

By Kwak Yeon-soo

The art collection of late former Samsung Chairman Lee Kun-hee will be exhibited abroad in 2024 or 2025 after stints in four cities here ― Seoul, Gwangju, Daegu and Cheongju.

Yoon Sung-yong, the new director-general of the National Museum of Korea (NMK), said the state-run museum will complete the registration for cultural heritage of Lee's private collection by the end of this year.

"Once the registration is done, citizens will be able to view Lee's art collection through an e-museum starting January of next year. The exhibition of Lee's collection will only be held in four cities in Korea before showcasing them abroad, because it's important to preserve and manage cultural assets," he said during a press conference at the museum in central Seoul, Thursday.

In the second half of 2022, Lee's art collection will be exhibited at the Gwangju National Museum. Next year, it will be displayed at the Daegu National Museum and the Cheongju National Museum. In 2024 or 2025, it will be showcased in museums abroad, according to the NMK.

Yoon Sang-deok, head of exhibition division at the NMK, explained, "The Art Institute of Chicago is preparing to hold a large-scale exhibition of Lee's collection while the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City plans to display them on a smaller scale."

The NMK owns 21,613 items of some 23,000 art pieces donated by Lee's family, including masterpieces by Korean and Western artists such as Kim Whan-ki, Claude Monet and Salvador Dali, after Lee's death in October 2020. The exhibition titled, "A Collector's Invitation," in Seoul has drawn about 187,000 people until now.

Director-general Yoon said the museum will support the creation of new exhibition halls for Korean art, improve the condition of existing halls and organize special exhibitions in six museums located in North America, Europe and Southeast Asia. It will also open a Korean exhibition hall powered by digital art, virtual reality and augmented reality at the National Museum Bangkok this year.

"We have some 60 Korean exhibition halls across 23 countries around the world. But most of them are located in North America and Europe. We will continue our efforts to create and improve Korean exhibition halls at major international museums so that hallyu, or the Korean wave, can bring more attention to traditional Korean culture," he said.

In return, it will hold various exhibitions partnering with overseas museums. Following the exhibition, "Mesopotamia, Great Cultural Innovations," "Masterpieces from Vienna, Habsburg Collection" will greet Korean visitors starting October. In June 2023, it plans to exhibit Greek and Roman art.

The NMK will also renovate its permanent exhibition hall, dedicated to celadon ceramics from the Goryeo Kingdom (918-1392), this year. This renovation is part of the ongoing renovation of the museum's sculpture and crafts section that began in 2021.

Kwak Yeon-soo


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