Workshop: Korean Art Histories and Materialities (IKO Heidelberg)

Date of event:   02/12/2023 − 02/12/2023

Title: Korean Art Histories and Materialities
Format: in-person (Voßstr. 2, CATS Auditorium (HS05)) and online (link available here)
Date: 2 December 2023
Organized by: Institute of East Asian Art History (IKO) Heidelberg, Heidelberg, Germany

The Institute of East Asian Art History is honored to host a workshop on Korean art on December 2.

At Heidelberg University, we have no Korean art specialists, but time and again detect fierce interest for Korean art and artifacts among our students. For the benefit of our students, the Korea Foundation helped us to locate funding to organize this special event. The presenters will introduce the students and outside guests to aspects of painting, collecting culture and history, as well as contemporary art and a female perspective on aspects of contemporary Korean life. To round off the program (see below), Professor em. Burglind Jungmann (UCLA) and Maria Sobotka, curator of the Korean collections at the Humboldt Forum, have agreed to shed some light on their ongoing projects in Germany.

Students on site are invited to join us for a viewing of Korean art objects at the local Museum of Ethnology von Portheim Stiftung in the old town.


10:00 – Transmissions: Joseon Screens of Chinese Bronzes
Dr. Eleanor Hyun (Metropolitan Museum of Art)

This presentation focuses on late-Joseon screens that depict Chinese bronzes. Comparing the bronzes that are depicted and closely examining the manner in which they are portrayed, the presentation looks at the connection between image and text. Considering the source imagery and medium, the screens will be discussed through the lens of intermediality and materiality.

11:30 – Early Western Approaches to Korean Buddhist Art
Dr. Charlotte Horlyck (SOAS)

Western-language scholarship on Korean Buddhist art began in the mid-19th century, initiated by translations of Japanese historical sources, such as the Nihon Shoki and the Kojiki. These early writings portrayed Korea as the initiator of Japanese art and credited Korean craftspeople for establishing the production of outstanding works of art on the Japanese archipelago. A case in point is The Pictorial Arts of Japan by William Anderson, an influential British collector of Japanese art. Published in 1886, Anderson claimed that “the casting of some of the greatest Buddhist bronzes was effected under the superintendence of Korean workmen.” Thus, at a time when little was known about Korea, and Chosŏn had only just opened its ports, early scholarship on East Asia portrayed the Korean peninsula as having been once seeped in Buddhist tradition and rich in Buddhist art. However, in contrast to Korean ceramics which were consumed in increasingly large numbers in America and Europe from the 1870s onwards, Korean Buddhist art did not attract much attention from Western collectors, especially not in the nineteenth century. Rather Western collectors focused their passion for Buddhist art on material and sites found in China and Japan. Given the accolades bestowed on Korean craftsmen by Western scholars and collectors, we may question why. The paper explores the factors that may have influenced early approaches to Korean Buddhist art, from a value oriented understanding of East Asian art to the availability of artefacts, among other issues.

12:20 – The Korean Collections in the Humboldt Forum, Berlin
Maria Sobotka (Humboldt Forum)

14:30 – Korean Art from a Women’s Perspective
Dr. Sunglim Kim (Dartmouth College)

Yun Suknam (b. 1939) is one of the earliest and most active feminist artists in Korea. Begun her artistic activity in her 40s, Yun passionately pursued creating artworks focusing on gender equality in diverse media. Since her first artistic training with calligraphy and drawing at her age of 36, Yun experimented with oil and acryl paints, woodblock sculpture, drawing, and installation art with mixed media. Collaborating with other women artists, she published the feminist magazine called If and attempted re-interpreted the motherhood and wrote Korean art herstory (as opposed to history) last four decades. In this presentation, we will explore the Korean feminist themes, issues, and history through Yun’s artworks and art projects and understand how feminism in Korean art world has developed (and still being challenged).

15:30 – Early Photographs of Korea
Prof. em. Burglind Jungmann (UCLA)

17:00 – Museum Visit and Object viewing
Völkerkundemuseum Heidelberg, von Portheim Stiftung