Exhibition: 책거리 Chaekgeori – Our shelves Our selves (Weltmuseum Wien)

Date of event:   22/04/2022 − 01/11/2022

Title: 책거리 Chaekgeori – Our shelves Our selves
Duration: 21 April 2022 to 1 November 2022
Institution: Weltmuseum Wien, Vienna, Austria


On the occasion of the 130th anniversary of Austrian-Korean diplomatic relations, Weltmuseum Wien, in collaboration with outstanding Korean artists who created these works in recent years, is showing the exhibition 책거리 Chaekgeori – Our shelves Our selves in three gallery rooms.

In Korea, chaekgeori (Korean: 책거리, translation “books and things”) designates a painted arrangement of books, shelves, various objects, and small treasures. This kind of painting has its origins in the Chinese tradition of collecting things such as the writings of Confucius, scrolls adorned with calligraphy or paintings, ancient ritual vessels, and decorative objects – and in the high esteem accorded them. Also beloved among Chinese collectors were depictions of flowers and animals, such as butterflies, mandarin ducks, carp, cranes, deer, as well as lotus blossoms, peonies, chrysanthemums, peaches, pomegranates, melons, and the citron, Citrus medicus, also known as ‘Buddha’s hand’. These motifs express positive wishes for health, happiness, wealth, and freedom from want. But their depictions are also often playful, inviting their viewers to seek and identify them in the paintings.

The early emperors of the Qing dynasty (1644–1911) were famous for their bookcases and the depictions thereof, in which the shelves were laden with classic writings and precious objects. At the end of the eighteenth century, the genre of painting bookshelves made its way to the Korean royal court of the Joseon dynasty (1392 – 1897) and to the members of Korea’s scholar-gentry, who shared a strongly Confucianist ethos. At the end of the nineteenth century, chaekgori gained popularity among ordinary people and became part of Korean folk painting.

The twenty-first-century Korean artists represented in this exhibition, some of whom belong to the school of minhwa (folk painting), work under the inspiration of traditional models. But they place their personal treasures next to books in personal and individual ways. Each painting expresses the artist’s taste, his or her hobby, or a wish – and is tinged with a touch of sentimentality. The depiction of the scholarly ethos of earlier times find new expression in images of computers, digital devices, tablets, and smartphones. The paintings feature towers of books reminiscent of skyscrapers and other architectural elements. Typical of the genre now is the use of strong, cheerful colours, emphasizing an optimistic and positive way of looking at the world.

For more information, please visit the website here.


Image: Book on Book 책속의 책, LEE Hwa Young 이화영 , 2021 © LEE Hwa Young 이화영