Lee Ho-jae, head of Gana Art Center, one of the most prominent art galleries in South Korea, donated 128 Korean artifacts to Seoul Arts Center last week.
The donated items ― 74 rubbed copies of epigraphs from the ancient and medieval times and 54 calligraphy works done with Chinese black ink from the Joseon Dynasty ― were purchased by Lee in Korea or overseas, or handed down to him in the family.
Rubbed copies of documents related to the bell in Bongdeoksa, which were delivered to Keikichi Ogawa as the Japanese Government General of Korea. (SAC)
All of the rubbed copies of ancient and medieval epigraphs were smuggled out to Japan during the Japanese colonial period in the early 20th century by Keikichi Ogawa, a then-official of the Japanese Government General of Korea and historian who led the pillage of artifacts and distortion of Korean history. Lee bought the copies from the descendents of the Japanese Government General of Korea in Japan about ten years ago.
“I thought it would be much more meaningful for the calligraphy museum to keep them in a proper way and study their value than for me to keep them,” said Lee.
Donated items also include documents on epitaph and patterns of Seongbulsa, a temple in Hwanghae Province, and an epitaph of Hyeonhwasa, a temple in Gaeseong City. They are currently situated in North Korea and impossible to access.
Joseon Dynasty calligraphy works include those by legendary figures and calligraphers such as Lee Hwang, Heo Gyun and Kim Jeong-hee. This is to be the first time the works will be viewable to the public.
“Calligraphy is the base of all art. I am working in the contemporary art field, but historically thinking, art owes a lot to calligraphy. I hoped to pay it back, at least a little, by this opportunity,” he said.
Seoul Arts Center’s Calligraphy Museum in Seocho-dong, southern Seoul, which is currently under renovation, will exhibit the donated items at a special exhibition from September to December.
By Park Min-young (firstname.lastname@example.org