Adventures in East Asia

Leeum Samsung Museum of Art - Designed by Three Renown Architects

The Leeum Samsung Museum of Art was recommended to us and it wasn't listed in our guidebook. As it turned out, it was well worth our time although we couldn't take any photos inside the exhibition space.


The museum is billed as a dynamic art complex that houses two major exhibitions, one for traditional Korean art and the other for contemporary and modern art from Korea and around the world.



Both of these galleries were housed in separate buildings and were each designed by a renowed architect. The first was by Swiss architect Mario Botta who was inspired by Korean traditional porcelain. The layout consists of several floors with a circular layout allowing visitors a user-friendly path through a darkened exhibition space. Each level was accessed via a wide adjoining spiral staircase, lit brightly with natural light, in contrast to the display areas.


The second gallery containing modern and contemporary art, was designed by internationally acclaimed French architect Jean Nouvel who combined revolutionary materials and styling to provide a stimulating atmosphere for the artwork.


Influential Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas was also involved with the Leeum Samsung Museum having designed the Samsung Child Education & Culture Center and he rounds up the trio of architects whose work alone provides a good reason to visit.


(Credit: the 3 photos above are from the Leeum Samsung Museum website)

The amount of artwork on display at the museum would not rival more comprehensive city collections it seems, but the result is to offer visitors a much more stylish presentation, giving breathing space to appreciate each item.


The traditional art gallery collected paintings, calligraphy, ceramics and metal works with many objects relating to Buddhism.

The modern collection included works by international names such as Damien Hirst, Sam Taylor-Wood, Mark Rothko, Francis Bacon and purveyor of gritty slimline sculptures, Alberto Giacometti. I have a soft spot for Giacometti's figures but Hirst's Dance of Death, a massive wall-wide stainless steel and glass cabinet containing hundreds of evenly spaced pills on several thin reflective shelves was pretty inspired.

My favourite modern art piece however had to be Kang Ik-Joong's I have to learn English which displays three walls full of woodcut blocks of typographic phrases. The blocks are stained, as if they've been used extensively to print and they consisted of short phrases such as "FISH FORKS", "VIRGIN FINGERS" and "HAPPY COMPUTER". As I viewed this piece, a recording of a Korean man's voice reciting English phrases with an English woman, played from a hidden speaker.

Outside of the two main galleries are designated "public zones" which contain further artwork. Leading from the entrance are bright, aqua LED's installed in the floor showing a changing sequence of numbers - a comment on time and existence, by Japanese artist Tatsuo Miyajima.


Next to the entrance and on the car park rooftop are two of Louise Bourgeois's bronze sculptures Maman which depicts spiders protecting their eggs. There are several of these around the world, not least in Tokyo's Roppongi Hills.


Finally, there are a number of Eye Benches which show a Surrealist influence whilst affording visitors the comfort of outdoor seating.



The Leeum Samsung Museum of Art is signposted from the Hangangjin metro station on Line 6 and cost us 10,000 KRW (£4.90).

More photos of the Leeum Samsung Museum of Art on Flickr.


This entry posted in : Art. Attractions. South Korea.

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