Everyday to the Extraordinary: Highlights From the Korean Collection

August 27, 2020 - Ongoing

In 2012, the Harn Museum of Art opened its only gallery dedicated to the arts of a single nation. The renovation of the south gallery in the David A. Cofrin Asian Art Wing is supported by a generous grant from the National Museum of Korea and re-opened in Summer 2020.

The exhibition Everyday to the Extraordinary: Highlights from the Korean Collection includes objects from everyday life alongside exemplars of artistic production. Ceramics in the exhibition span nearly 2,500 years of history, from the Three Kingdoms Period (57 BCE–668 CE) to the present, while paintings date from the Joseon Dynasty (1392–1910) and into the 20th century.

Religious painting and sculpture reflect the richness of the Buddhist tradition, the influence of the more indigenous practice of Shamanism, along with the undercurrents of Daoist philosophy and an omnipresent Confucian system of relationships.

Some everyday objects were initially meant for practical use but came to be appreciated as works of art as time passed and contexts shifted. Extraordinary objects on view were created for aesthetic appreciation during their own time. From our own standpoint in the 21st century, the lines sometimes blur and products of the quotidian (arts of everyday life) can appear as lovely as a landscape executed by a member of the scholar-literati. These genres come together in the exhibition to paint a fuller picture of Korean art and life and are supplemented by references to literature, cuisine, and the performing arts.

Hanging scrolls by Kim Hongdo (1745–c.1806) and Kim Eunho (1892–1979) will be on view for the first time in over 15 years, as prior to conservation they were too fragile to display. Preservation work completed in Seoul by the JungJae Conservation Center has illuminated the extraordinary work of these versatile court painters. Kim Hongdo (Dan Won) was one of the most eminent painters of the Joseon Dynasty and is well-known for his paintings of daily life.

This exhibition is made possible by the generous support of the National Museum of Korea with additional support from the Cofrin Curator of Asian Art Endowment.


Korean Art and Culture

Explore more of Everyday to the Extraordinary here.

Gallery Guide

In this guide a single object offers an entryway into each historical period covered in the exhibition. By comparing the pivotal events of an era to the undercurrent of cultural norms and shared values, it becomes clearer how the aesthetics of an age intimately reflect the culture and values of the time.

Printable Poem Activity

Make your own sijo (traditional form of Korean poetry) inspired by Seok Mo Ro-in's Tiger.

Image credits:


Slide 1
Left: Kim Ki-Chang, (Unbo), Korean, 1914–2001, Prunus Vase, Republic of Korea (1948–present), 1970, Porcelain, Museum purchase, funds provided by the Robert H. and Kathleen M. Axline Acquisition Endowment, photo by Randy Batista
Middle: Korean, Lidded container (Honey Trunk), Early 20th century, Wood with metal fittings, Gift of William and Robbie Hedges, photo by Randy Batista
Right: Unknown Korean artist, Wine Bottle (Sulbyeong), Joseon Dynasty (1392–1910), 18th century, Porcelain, Gift of General James A. Van Fleet, photo by Randy Batista
Slide 2
Left: Seok Mo Ro-in, Korean, active late 19th Century, Tiger (detail), Joseon Dynasty (1392–1910), Late 19th Century, Ink and color on paper, Museum purchase, funds provided by The David A. Cofrin Fund for Asian Art
Right: Kim Hongdo (Dan Won), Korean, 1745–c.1806, Hunting with Falcons (detail), Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910), Late 18th Century, c. 1792–1795, Ink and color on silk, Gift of General James A. Van Fleet


Slide 3
Left: Korean, Mounted Cup, Three Kingdoms Period (57 BCE–668 CE), 5th–6th century, Stoneware, Gift of Roy Hunt, photo by Randy Batista
Middle: Kim Eunho, Korean, 1892–1979, Folk Dancers Dressed as Buddhist Nuns (detail), Japanese Occupation of Korea (1910–1945), 1922, Ink and color on silk, Gift of General James A. Van Fleet
Right: Unknown Korean artist, Model, Three Kingdoms Period (57 BCE–668 CE), Silla Kingdom, c. 400–600 CE, Stoneware, Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Dale and Patricia Keller, photo by Randy Batista