The National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Korea was established in Gyeongbokgung Palace in 1969.

The museum's first collection was Korean modern art from early to mid-20th century, including such important artists as Ko Hui-Dong(1886–1965); Ku Bon-Ung(1906-1953); Park Soo-Keun(1916-1964); and Kim Whan-Ki(1913-1970).

By the time when the museum moved to Seokjojeon in Deoksugung Palace in 1973, a systematic framework of the collection was established to accommodate a wide variety of artworks. In mid to late 1970s the museum developed a collection of mainly figurative art by senior or deceased artists, and in the early to mid-1980s a huge collection of abstract works by mid-aged to senior artists was added.

The museum began to focus on gathering a substantial internationally-recognized collection with the completion of its new museum in Gwacheon in 1986. The Asian Games in 1986 and the 1988 Olympics were prime opportunities for the museum to boast its growing collection, as well as to expand by continuing to purchase artworks from an array of international artists, such as Joseph Beuys, Andy Warhol, Georg Baselitz, Jörg Immendorff, and Marcus Lüpertz. The More the Better by Nam-June Paik was installed in the museum also at this time.

In 1990s, the museum started to establish a more comprehensive collection by paying attention to not only the works of well-known artists, but also to that of younger emerging artists. In addition, the museum continued to collect pieces from internationally-celebrated artists such as Nikki de Saint-Phalle, Jonathan Borofsky, Michelangelo Pistoletto, Cesar Baldaccini, Enzo Cucchi, Jim Dine, and Christian Boltanski.

Today, the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Korea seeks to strengthen its collection of relatively overlooked genres like, print, craft, photography, and new media, while simultaneously maintaining a standard of international excellence by continually researching, discovering, and collecting both international and domestic art.