The modern and contemporary art collection at Leeum comprises leading works of Korean art from 1910 onwards, along with important examples of international art since 1945. The collection includes works by early modern Korean painters such as Lee Sang-beom and Byeon Kwan-sik who used traditional ink painting method, as well as Lee In-sung, Lee Joong-seop, Park Soo-keun and Chang Uc-chin, who sought to express universal Korean sentiments in Western-style painting methods. In addition, the collection has important works by Kim Whan-ki and Nam Jun Paik, who paved the way for the international recognition of Korean art, as well as other works by mid-career artists such as Lee Bul and Do Ho Suh.
Leeum’s collection of international art focuses on works produced since 1945. The extensive collection ranges from the works of such pioneers in modern Western art such as Alberto Giacometti, Francis Bacon, Mark Rothko, Joseph Beuys, and Andy Warhol to established contemporary artists, including Damien Hirst, Jeff Koons, and Andreas Gursky. In addition, a growing number of works by non-Western artists within the collection reflects the dynamic and multi-centered nature of contemporary art.
The modern and contemporary art permanent collection galleries in MUSEUM 2 consist of three exhibitions under the overarching theme of Beyond Space. Each floor is respectively arranged around the topics of the expressionist tendency in modern art, investigations on the fundamental elements of art and expanded and hybrid art practices of recent. The clash and harmony between the local and the international is a common issue in non-Western countries including the ones in Asia. In these galleries, we eschewed regional or historical arrangement, and thematically exhibited Korean and international art in order to show the correspondence of influences.
This gallery is arranged around the keyword ‘expression.’ Korean modern artists such as Lee Joong-seop, Park Soo-keun and Lee In-sung perceived art in terms of expression, rather than representation. After the 1950s, Abstract Expressionists in the U.S. and Art informel artists in Europe such as Willem de Kooning, Jean Fautrier and Jean Dubuffet, as well as many Korean Artists including Youn Myeong-ro and Chung Chang-sup poured out postwar anxieties onto their canvases. Further, Sigmar Polke, Lim Ok-sang and Zeng Fanzhi conveyed the historical awareness and zeitgeist in expressionistic manner, while Louise Bourgeois and Cecily Brown sought to express personal experiences and sentiments through art. To this day, art continues to be the arena for expressing universal human sensitivities.
This gallery showcases Western Minimalism and Korean dansaekhwa (monochrome) paintings under the title On Abstraction. In Western art, Mark Rothko’s color field paintings of the 1960s continued in the Minimalist works of Ellsworth Kelly, Donald Judd and Agnes Martin, who recognized flatness, color, line and plain geometry as the fundamental elements of painting and sculpture. Concurrently in Korea in the 1970s, dansaekhwa became the main artistic movement that included artists Chung Sang-hwa, Yun Hyong-keun and Ha Chong-hyun and works as diverse as Kim Whan-ki’s late abstract paintings and ink paintings by Kwon Young-woo. These artists focused on the two-dimensionality of painting and composed their canvas in monochrome. While Western Minimalism sought to approach the level of objecthood without the trace of the artist’s touch, Korean dansaekhwa artists sought to reach the transcendental state of losing themselves to become one with their art.
This gallery encompasses diverse tendencies after Pop art in the 1960s under the theme of Beyond Boundaries. Following the lead of Andy Warhol, artists like Cindy Sherman and Richard Prince expanded the realm of art to include popular culture, and the art world became increasingly decentered as boundaries between regions, genres and times became obscured. Since the 1990s, along with various artists from Asia and Africa, Korean artists including Lee Bul and Yang Haegue experienced meteoric rise in the international art world, following in the footsteps of Nam June Paik and Lee Ufan. The contemporary art showcased in this gallery cannot be categorized in a single dominant artistic movement, which makes this floor the most dynamic of the three galleries in MUSEUM 2.