Art, War and Diplomacy – Early Discoveries and Collecting of Goryeo Art in the Late 19th and Early 20th Century

Date: 

Thursday, February 15, 2018, 4:30pm to 6:00pm

Location: 

Belfer Case Study Room (S020), CGIS South Building, 1730 Cambridge Street

Wagner Special Lecture

Wagner Special Lecture Poster_Feb 15

Charlotte Horlyck, Lecturer in Korean Art History, SOAS/ Smithsonian Institution Senior Fellow of Art History

Charlotte Horlyck was appointed Lecturer in the History of Korean art at SOAS in 2007 and served as Chair of its Centre of Korean Studies from 2013 to 2017. Prior to taking up her position at SOAS, she curated the Korean collection at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. Her monograph Korean Art – From the 19th Century to the Present (Reaktion Books) was published in August 2017. Her co-edited volume (with Michael Pettid, SUNY Binghamton) Death, Mourning, and the Afterlife in Korea from Ancient to Contemporary Times (Hawai’i University Press, 2014) was selected for a Republic of Korea Ministry of Education Award (2015).

Chaired by Sun Joo Kim, Harvard-Yenching Professor of Korean History; Director, Korea Institute, Harvard University

Abstract
This lecture traces the early collecting of artefacts from the Korean peninsula and explores changing understandings of Korea’s past vis-à-vis its present around the turn of the twentieth century. It was not until the closing decades of the nineteenth century that Korea’s cultural heritage was introduced to the world outside East Asia. By then the cultural traditions of China and Japan were already well-known and several museums in the West were actively collecting arts from those regions. In contrast, when Korea opened its ports to Japan in 1876 and in the 1880s to the Unites States, United Kingdom, Germany and other European nations, few knew anything about the so-called ‘Hermit Kingdom’. However, this soon changed as the arrival of diplomats, traders, among others, coincided with the rise of the local arts market that catered to the increased want for Korean antiques and other objects.

In particular green-glazed celadon ceramics from the Goryeo kingdom (918-1392) drew the attention of art buyers. Already in the 1880s such wares were noted as being expensive and held in high esteem. Though initially hard to come by, during the following decades hundreds of them were discovered and collected. Drawing on archival material and early writings on Korean art, this lecture explores the early interest in Goryeo celadon ceramics and the manner in which they changed hands.

Supported by the Edward Willett Wagner Memorial Fund at the Korea Institute, Harvard University