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Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Seoul Museum of Art (SeMA): Art Museum with Four Different Places in Seoul (updated)

The Seoul Museum of Art (Hanja: 서울市立美術館; SeMA) in 61 Deoksu Palace Street/Deoksugung-gil, Seosomun-dong 37-beonji, Seoul Jung-gu was opened in 1988 and has earned a reputation as one of Korea’s leading art venues with a series of world-famous exhibitions. Situated in the center of Seoul, its convenient location and outstanding collections attract large numbers of locals and tourists. The specially-designed building features large windows that fill the interior with natural light. This attracts not only tourists but also artists and even movie directors, some of whom have used the location for filming.

The interesting fact about the Main Building of SeMA is the land lot number is shared with the Seoul City Hall Seosomun Annex (Seosomun-dong 37-beonji).

Since it was established in 1988, the main museum building has been relocated to Seosomun-dong in Seoul. The museum has a variety of annexes such as SeMA Gyeonghuigung, located on the historic site of Gyeonghuigung (Palace), the NamSeoul Annex Building which is situated in a building that was once the Belgian Embassy and BukSeoul Annex which is located at Junggye-dong, Seoul Nowon-gu. The museum also runs the Nanji Art Studio, located at Seoul Mapo-gu - near to Seoul Sang-Am World Cup Stadium which offers workshops and financial support to new generations of Korean artists to nurture their creativity.

The beautiful Renaissance façade which forms the entrance to the museum was originally part of the Supreme Court of the Republic of Korea, built in 1928. Today it is better known as the iconic image of the Seoul Museum of Art. In March 2006, the arch and the beautifully constructed museum building were designated as Cultural Property No. 237 in recognition of their great historical and architectural value.

SeMA is one of Korea’s leading art museums and has boosted its reputation through a series of impressive special exhibitions. Particularly noteworthy exhibitions have included European art featuring Van Gogh, Picasso, Matisse and Chagall alongside the museum’s “Spring Outing Exhibition” and the “International Media Art Biennale”. The museum is also famous for its permanent exhibitions of work by domestic artists, including the collection of more than 93 works by Chun Kyungja, known as one of the great 20th century Korean artists.

The museum offers visitors a leisurely outdoor “Museum Walk” on which to appreciate the various exhibitions and cultural offerings in the gallery’s grounds. The museum entrance is specially designed as an open space for the public – for example there is no barrier - and it is surrounded by greenery which leads you directly into a beautiful sculpture garden. Every year in spring, the “Spring Outing Exhibition” is held in front of the museum. The famous “Autumn Night Concert” is also held each Fall, captivating the audience with the sounds of jazz, pop and classical music, enticing them into the museum’s world of art.

In addition to its main building, SeMA includes SeMA Gyeonghuigung, the Nam Seoul Annex (located in Namhyeon-dong) and the Nanji Art Studio (on the grounds of the Seoul Sang-Am World Cup Stadium, Seoul Mapo-gu).

SeMA Gyeonghuigung (Gyeonghui Palace) Annex
Gyeonghuigung Annex Building of Seoul Museum of Art in 45 Saemunan Avenue/Saemunanno (previously known as Saemunan Drive/Saemunan-gil), Sinmunno 2-ga 2-1 beonji, Seoul Jongno-gu originally opened as the annex building of the Seoul Museum of Art in July 2003. The site was the original location of Gyeonghuigung Palace. After undergoing a recent renovation, it is now the annex building as we know it today boasting beautiful views of the gardens and historic sites. A wide range of art exhibitions take place here.

The two-story building has two exhibition halls and a management office. Its unique exhibition space has round corridors and winding corridors that feel flexible and dynamic. The annex building of Gyeonghuigung is primarily used for paid exhibitions.

SeMA NamSeoul Annex (Old Belgian Embassy)
The Seoul Museum of Art (SeMA) NamSeoul Annex in 2076 Southern Ring Road/NambuSunhwanno, Namhyeon-dong 1059-13 beonji, Seoul Gwanak-gu opened at the old Belgium Embassy building on September 2, 2004. The old Belgium Embassy building (Historic Site No. 254) was constructed in 1905 and restored in 1983. The building’s classical ionic columns and fireplaces have been kept intact, allowing the museum to serve as a tool for studying classic architecture of the 1900s as well as modern art.

The blue-gabled building (measuring 1,569.58 sq m) houses classrooms (B1) and exhibition halls and offices (1F-2F). Outside is a sculpture park.

The Seoul Museum of Art has three annexes; the Gyeonghuigung annex, the NamSeoul annex and the BukSeoul annex which is used mainly for planned exhibitions and art education for children.

SeMA BukSeoul Annex
The Seoul Museum of Art (SeMA) opened a new branch in 1238 Dong-il Avenue/Dongillo, Junggye-dong 508-beonji, Seoul Nowon-gu on September 24th 2013. The BukSeoul annex, located inside a park amidst a cluster of apartment blocks, will serve as the final piece to director Kim Hong-hee’s post-museum plan.

The municipal museum is thus geared towards a much broader audience than the main location in central Seoul, with dedicated spaces to a children’s gallery, city-inspired photography gallery, and an outdoor sculpture garden.

Its philosophy is also embedded into the building’s structure. Designed by Samoo Architects & Engineers, the museum recently won the Seoul Metropolitan Government's Architectural Award for its contemporary, angular design that seems to both mold and break from its green environment. It also features multiple entrances on all sides, to encourage passersby to stop in.

The main exhibition features 140 works from SeMA’s collection, concisely illustrating the past half-century in Korean art through works by Nam Kwan, Park Seo-bo, Kim Whanki, Lee Yong-baek, Cho Duck-hyun, Ham Yang-ah, and more.

The second exhibition in the photography gallery introduces the past, present and future of Seoul through more reflective pieces by Kang Sang-hoon, Lee Deuk-young, among others.

The final and perhaps most grand exhibition is located in the children’s gallery, guest curated by Choi Hye-gyeong of the Gyeonggi Children’s Museum. A slowly turning, pastel-colored plastic cloud by Lee Byungchan sets the mood, while a found objects sculpture by Han Seok-hyeon and Yu Byeong-seo bring in elements from the neighborhood inside.

And a surprising addition is the 2000 “Market” installation by Paik Nam-june. The collection of miscellaneous items and videos shot from traditional Korean bazaars incites nostalgia in adults and wonder in kids.