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 was 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.
A hanging scroll by Kim Hongdo (1745–c.1806) will be on view for the first time in over 15 years, as prior to conservation it was too fragile to display. Preservation work completed in Seoul by the JungJae Conservation Center has illuminated the extraordinary work of this versatile court painter. 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.