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MMCA to purchase more international art for collection

Jan. 10, 2024 - 10:54 By Park Yuna
MMCA Director Kim Sung-hee speaks to the press at the New Year's press conference held Tuesday at MMCA in Seoul. (Yonhap)

The National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Korea will expand the proportion of international art in its collection, which stands at less than 10 percent of its total collected works.

Among the 11,500 works in its collection, 993 are by overseas artists, according to the museum. Ninety-one percent of its collection are works by Korean artists.

“The Korean art scene has received more attention than ever in recent years. What the museum holds in its collection is equivalent to its competitiveness on the global stage. It is time that we put efforts to raise competitiveness by strengthening the international art collection,” MMCA Director Kim Sung-hee said at a press Tuesday at MMCA announcing the plan for the year, pledging to add more international art to the collection during her three-year term.

Kim, a former Hongik University professor who was appointed to head the museum in September last year, said she aims to raise the portion of international works from 8.6 percent to at least 9.5 percent by 2026.

MMCA Director Kim Sung-hee unveils a three-year plan for the museum at the New Year's press conference on Tuesday at MMCA Seoul. (Yonhap)

For this year, the museum is looking to add works by female Asian artists, which coincides with the exhibition “Connecting Bodies: Asian Women Artists” that is slated to open in September at MMCA Seoul. The exhibition will bring together works from the 1960s to the present by some 50 female artists from across Asia.

The plan to acquire more international art, however, faces a formidable challenge in the form of an inadequate budget. The museum's budget allocated for art purchases is set at 4.7 billion won, which Kim noted falls far short of the funds needed to buy works by international artists.

To supplement the insufficient budget, the museum will look for ways to reinforce its collection in two ways – facilitating donations to the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art Foundation and securing a special budget from the government.

“There have been cases that we have received donated works through the sponsorship to the MMCA Foundation. We will find ways to encourage donations to the foundation,” Kim said.

The museum will also kick off MMCA Research Fellowship program, an international exchange program between Korean and overseas researchers with the aim to boost research into Korean art.

Collaboration with overseas museums will continue this year, following last year’s “Only the Young: Experimental Art in Korea, 1960s-1970s” co-organized by MMCA and the Guggenheim Museum in New York. The touring exhibition will be shown at Hammer Museum in Los Angeles from February to May.

“The Modern and Contemporary Korean Writing” will open in July at the Taoyuan Museum of Fine Arts in Taiwan. The exhibition was first held in 2020 at MMCA Deoksugung as the museum’s first-ever calligraphy exhibition. After the exhibition was shown online during the pandemic, the Hengshan Calligraphy Art Center at Taoyuan Museum of Fine Arts invited the exhibition to be held there.

Meanwhile, the museum has chosen Lee Kang-so, a representative experimental artist in the 1970s who later became known for his abstract paintings of ducks, to present a solo exhibition in October at MMCA Seoul. Landscape architect Jung Young-sun, a first-generation female Korean landscape architect, will be introduced at MMCA Seoul from April to September.

At MMCA Gwacheon, the "Performing Home: The Art of Living" exhibition will run from July to December, exploring architecture and residential living culture post-2000.