Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Behind the scenes at Busan MoMA

Last week I went behind the scenes at Busan Museum of Modern Art in Haeundae to find out what is on offer at this large and well-designed modern city gallery. Anyone interested in art will probably be familiar with the Busan Biennale centered every two years on this space, (the next Busan Biennale is due again in 2008), but outside of that major international event the Busan MoMA is still well-worth a regular visit.

When I first moved to Busan in 2003 both the gallery and the nearby subway station were named the Busan Metropolitan Museum of Art. Then, a little while back, I noticed the subway train announcements had changed to slightly pretentious sounding “Busan Museum of Modern Art”. On checking the gallery I found that not much had changed except the coffee shop had greatly improved! I asked the friendly Busan MoMA team of curators about the reasons behind the name change and found out that the previous title that had included the words “metropolitan museum” had been considered as sounding too much like an ordinary museum. The committee had wanted to put more focus on the modern art aspect, hence the choice of MoMA. However, that is not the end of the matter – for the 10th anniversary of the museum next year, the name of the gallery (and the subway station) will be changed yet again to Busan Museum of Art to encompass a greater range of art periods and styles!

The Busan MoMA has a permanent collection, a selection of which is always on show, plus there are usually a couple of other major exhibitions. There are also small gallery spaces – known as the ‘Citizen’s Gallery’ - downstairs in the basement section of the MoMA available for inexpensive rental to any local artist who would like to exhibit. I asked the curators for a special sneak preview of the next major exhibitions to be shown at the Busan MoMA: -

Starting Dec 7, 2007 and running until Feb 17, 2008 will be ‘vision & perspective’.
This is an annual exhibition for emerging local (and that means Busan) artists that celebrates its ninth anniversary this year. It will show the work of 4 up-and-coming artists; PARK Mi-kyoung, PARK Ja-hyun, BAE Ji-min, and LEE Won-ju, focusing on the individual artists’ originality, concept, and experimental spirit. The artwork ranges in style from colorful installation, large-scale contemporary ink portraits and landscapes to some interesting cartoon-style drawings by Park Mikyoung that are hard to classify!

Then from December 21, 2007 through February 17, 2008 there will be a major photographic exhibition, entitled ‘The Beauty of Baekje’ by one of the most famous photographers in Korea, Joon Choi. The artist has spent 3 years searching out historical art relics and landscapes related to the Baekje Dynasty period of Korea, and the exhibition will present 27 very large –scale gelatin silver prints on that theme.

Apart from the exhibitions, the gallery also has a gift store (including a selection of art books, some of which are in English) and a decent coffee shop where you can mull over your artistic inspirations. From time to time there are workshops and seminars for the public, but these are currently only in Korean language. However, the good news is that the Busan MoMA curators are interested in creating more ways for foreigners to participate in gallery activities. The newest curator, Mr. Gim Jun gi also has a mission to develop more public art projects, so we should see some new developments in the coming months. Anyone interested in getting more information about gallery programs, renting an exhibition space in the Citizen’s gallery, or suggesting activities for foreigners can contact the Busan MoMA. See the Busan MoMA website:
or email Mr Gim Jun gi, curator at:

The author of this blog, Penelope Thompson, is an Australian contemporary artist living in Korea who works in performance, installation and community art events. You can see her personal exhibition blog at

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