Ministry of Culture plans new building to house Lee Kun-hee collection

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The Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism is considering two sites in central Seoul to build an exclusive facility dedicated to the personal collection of the late Samsung Group chairman Lee Kun-hee, which was donated to the government.

The grounds of the National Museum of Korea in Yongsan-gu and the Songhyeon-dong area near the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art of Korea are the two potential sites.

The Culture Ministry set up a separate task force and expert committee to process the 23,181 works of art donated by Lee’s family in April.

“There is a need to build a new art hall to better manage the donated art collection and study the vast art collection,” Culture Minister Hwang Hee said at a press conference at the complex on Wednesday. government in central Seoul.

The establishment has been tentatively named the “Lee Kun-hee Donation Hall”. Although the exact budget for the project has yet to be established, Hwang expected it to cost some 100 billion won ($ 87.8 million).

The culture ministry will decide on the final site after discussions with its expert committee and relevant authorities, Hwang said. The decision will likely be made before the end of this year.

Although cities across the country have been very noisy about having the facility in their areas, the committee decided on Seoul, citing the need to cooperate with experts from the National Museum of Korea and the MMCA.

A database of donated works is expected to be completed by 2023, according to Hwang.

“The most important principles are preservation (of works) and associated studies (of works). To preserve and display the works of art – which are of various types, from oil paintings to ceramics and more – the experience and experts of both institutions are needed, ”said Kim Yeong-na, head of the committee of experts.

“In addition, accessibility is important, making Songhyeon-dong and Yongsan the optimal locations,” said Kim, professor emeritus in the Department of Archeology and Art History at Seoul National University and former director of the National Museum of Korea.

Director General Min Byoung-chan of the National Museum of Korea said construction of the new facility is expected to be completed by 2027 or 2028.

Donations were originally made to the National Museum of Korea and the MMCA, with the National Museum of Korea receiving 21,693 pieces of ancient art while the MMCA receiving 1,488 pieces of modern and contemporary art. Hwang pointed out that Lee’s family donated the works to Korea because the state owns the ownership of all the works in the two public institutions.

Artworks donated to regional museums, including Lee Jung Seop Art Gallery on Jeju Island, Park Soo Keun Museum in Gangwon Province, Daegu Art Museum, Gwangju Art, Jeonnam Art Museum in Gwangyang, South Jeolla Province, and Seoul National Museum. The university – will remain there, in accordance with the wishes of the donor, he added.

A traveling exhibition showcasing Lee’s art collection will be held in national and public art museums across the country from the second half of 2022, Hwang said. The ministry said it plans to hold a traveling exhibition more than three times a year.

Hwang said there are also plans to exhibit the works donated abroad in museums and art galleries, including the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the Museum of Prado in Madrid, Spain and the British Museum.

“(The ministry) hopes to strengthen Korea’s brand identity as a cultural powerhouse through the construction of the new facility. We will do our best to communicate with the arts scene and experts, ”said the Minister.

Meanwhile, exhibits showcasing some of the donated works will be held at the Korea National Museum and MMCA from July 21.

In April 2022, the two institutions will hold a joint special exhibition marking the 1st anniversary of the donation. The Ministry of Culture plans to present the works of art donated to regional museums and galleries as well as some works from the Leeum, Samsung Museum of Art, at the same exhibition.

By Im Eun-byel ([email protected])


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