KOREAN CRAFTS and contemporary art are showcased at the Metropolitan Museum of Manila in celebration of the 70th anniversary of Philippine-Korean bilateral relations.
The Korean Life Aesthetics exhibition — a collaboration of the Korean Cultural Center (KCC) in the Philippines and the renowned artist group, Korea Craft and Design Foundation (KCDF) — was launched on Nov. 14. Upon entrance to the gallery, guests are greeted by 28 modern white porcelain jars, a work titled Moon Jar by Kim Pan-ki. The installation serves a teaser to the simplicity and elegance of Korean crafts found in the home.
On Jan. 10, 1962, the Cultural Heritage Protection Act was enacted in the Republic of Korea for the preservation of tangible and intangible Korean cultural heritage.
Speaking through an interpreter, exhibit director Jin Hyo-Seung told BusinessWorld that the law was carried out after years of colonial rule. Prior to the country’s division into two — a communist state in the north and a democratic one in the south, Korea was under Japanese colonial rule from 1910 to 1945.
“Craft was a practical mode of art that was close to people’s lives in the past. Craft is about completing aesthetic but practical goods or objects through human hands,” Mr. Jin wrote in the exhibition notes. “With the mix of traditional and modern subject matters, craft is undergoing a great transformation that break away from ‘original form,’ but the aspect of its ‘beautiful practicality’ has not changed.”
The gallery is set up to look like a hanok, a traditional Korean house. Mirroring Korean aesthetics, on display are contemporary designs of furniture and household objects.
The exhibition is divided into four areas. The first is “Elegant Boudoir” which showcases sewing and embroidery crafts by women. It is mostly represented by dowry items of brides-to-be such as the Modern Hanbok by Kim In-ja, a modern take on the traditional Korean dress, and the point-tip Korean Traditional Flower Shoes by Hwang Hae-bong, embroidered with the Ten Symbols of Longevity.
Then there is the “Simple Study” which features minimalist furniture including Hanji Blinds by Kim Baek-seon, made from weaving horsehair into bamboo strings, and a Bamboo Moon Lamp by Kang Shin-jae, which was inspired by a full moon that appeared to be hanging on bamboos.
The third area is “Table Set of Accommodation” which presents four seasonal tableware which depend on the number of served side dishes and rice. A meal with rice as a staple may include a table set for three to 12 dishes. Items in this part of the exhibit include a five-dish brassware set by Kim Soo-young, a ceramic tea bowl by Kim Jung-ok, and BAN-No. 10 pine tree wood tray tables by Kim Wan-gyu.
Finally, “Naturalistic Rest” focuses on the Korean tea-drinking culture. The exhibit includes a two-layered tea table by Kim Tae-sunmade of maple wood and leather, and a Habjukseon-Hundred folding fan by Kim Dong-sik, made with 50 bamboo ribs.
Mr. Jin noted that Korea currently has about 68 kinds of crafts and that the various crafts are taught in schools and are passed down to the next generation.
In his notes, Mr. Jin concludes, “The comforts of craft are making our lives more beautiful among many commercial goods that are convenient in the digital age.”
Korean Life Aesthetics is on view at the Bangko Sentral Gallery of the Metropolitan Museum of Manila until Jan. 31, 2020. The Museum is located at Roxas Blvd., Malate, Manila City. The museum is open from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., Monday through Saturday. Admission is free on Tuesdays. — Michelle Anne P. Soliman