One method of understanding a country’s culture is by visiting its art museums. Learning about the history preserved and special stories told through the artwork leads to a deeper understanding of the culture. From modern art museums to vibrant media art, the following spaces will have you losing yourself in the charms of K-culture!
ARKO Art Center is the most representative space for modern art culture in Korea. The red-brick building, designed by preeminent Korean modern architect Kim Swoo Geun, has been a landmark of the Daehangro area for over 40 years. Daehangro itself is at the center of youthful artistic culture in Korea, being located near various universities and filled with many small theaters.
Throughout their history, ARKO Art Center has played an important role in keeping art accessible to all. To start, all exhibitions are free of charge, with many high-quality programs also available. In addition, the exhibition spaces are barrier-free, making them accessible to people in all stages of life. Beyond this, the art center aims to keep the number of exhibition materials and printed leaflets down to protect the environment. All these efforts have helped ARKO Art Center go beyond a simple space for art to transform into a welcoming environment for all.
The current exhibition, in celebrations of ARKO Art Center’s upcoming 50th anniversary, tells the history of the center as seen through the eyes of the participating artists. Each work of art allows one to see the past and the present of ARKO Art Center, and through this, the changes in modern Korean art over time. The exhibition features 23 artworks made by nine artists from a wide range of artistic genres, including spatial architecture, painting, and sound art. The exhibition hall guide is available as both a printed leaflet and a mobile download, while each art piece has a QR code to scan for a detailed description.
Following the close of the current exhibition, the 2023 Invitational Exhibition, “Nho Wonhee: You Were There” is planned to open August 11. Nho is famous for her paintings that speak about social realities, allowing viewers to experience various lives previously unknown to them.
ARKO Art Center
The aroma of art at Busan Museum of Art goes hand-in-hand with the salty sea air of Korea’s representative coastal city, Busan. The museum’s artwork aims to capture and recreate various relations, amazing experiences, and meaningful moments. Aside from the art, the museum also hosts meetings with artists, film showings related to the exhibitions, experience programs for children, and classes for future educators.
The most popular attraction of Busan Museum of Art is the annex building, Space Lee Ufan, made even more popular after BTS leader RM visited. Lee Ufan is an outstanding artist and leader in the Korean art community. He was recognized by the Korean government for his contributions to the development of culture and art in Korea with the Geumgwan (Gold Crown) Order of Cultural Merit.
Space Lee Ufan is one of just two exhibition halls in the world entirely dedicated to this famous artist, and displays the artist’s most memorable works from the 1960s to now. The two-story building showcases the four most famous sculpture works of Lee on the first floor, while the second floor houses 15 pieces from his “Dialogue” series. You can also see some of Lee’s work on display in the outdoor sculpture garden.
Busan Museum of Art
The National Museum of Modern & Contemporary Art (MMCA) is Korea’s signature modern art museum. They operate four locations in Gwacheon, Deoksugung, Seoul, and Cheongju, with each location being a pillar of culture and arts in the area.
MMCA Cheongju opened in 2018 as the fourth branch, and the nation’s first art storage-type museum. The open storage style creates the optimal environment for visitors to appreciate the vast multitude of items in the museum’s collection, like visiting a secret treasure vault. This open, seemly random display of items makes the art museum quite accessible to visitors who may be unsure of how to appreciate an art museum.
The Open Storage exhibition underwent its first reorganization since it first opened, with the current display layout opening on December 3, 2020. The open storage displays 170 sculptures, categorized based on time period and material, earning the exhibition praise for their fun and interesting way of showing the artwork. Exploring the structure and function of the storage area is also fun, like getting a glimpse into a museum vault. The museum also offers a VR tour of the Open Storage, available through their website.
National Museum of Modern & Contemporary Art (MMCA) Cheongju
Experience K-art through the unique medium of media art. More and more of these media art centers are popping up throughout the country, each one providing their own unique and colorful photo spots.
Gyeongju, Gyeongsangbuk-do | Gyeongju Expo Grand Park’s Timeless Media Art
Gyeongju Expo Grand Park is a theme park with a range of cultural content. Among these, Timeless Media Art is the most popular. The many media artworks are themed around Gyeongju and the city’s UNESCO World Heritages.
Purchasing a ticket to Gyeongju Expo Grand Park provides admission to all of the park’s attractions, not just Timeless Media Art. With just one ticket, you can enjoy the exhibitions and experience programs at Gyeongju Expo Solgeo Art Museum, Gyeongju Expo Memorial Center, Natural History Museum, Asadal Sculpture Park, Tobot Story Museum and more.
Gyeongju Expo Grand Park – Timeless Media Art
Dpirang is a nighttime digital theme park located at Nammangsan Park in Tongyeong. The display uses various lights and the walls of the buildings themselves to create living murals that move. Telling the story of a forested mountain trail, the path stretches 1.3 km through up and downhill sections, so wearing comfortable clothing and shoes is very important.
There is a fascinating place hidden within Gyeongbokgung Station on Seoul Subway Line 3. It’s none other than Gwanghwa Won, a media art exhibition themed on healing and meditation. The space is relatively small, but still manages to show a range of artworks, from world-famous landmarks to interactive displays that react to footsteps. You can also talk about Korean culture with the AI version of Minho from SHINee at the AI Information Center opposite the exhibition hall.
Arte Museum Jeju is located on the fantastic island of Jeju, but opens a portal to an even more beautiful and amazing world through media art. Each of the grand spaces is filled with scents and sounds to match the images on the walls so viewers really feel they have entered another realm.
The most famous exhibition is “Beach,” creating the image of a never-ending sandy shore through the artful positioning of mirrors. This beach presents a prefect image regardless of weather or time. “Wave” is another display that feels quite real. You m ay find yourself flinching when the large wave appears to come crashing into the glass wall, breaking into white sea foam before your eyes.
Arte Museum Jeju
* This column was last updated in June 2023, and therefore information may differ from what is presented here. We advise you to check for updates before visiting.