This year marks the 20th anniversary of the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Deoksugung, which opened in 1998 in the West Gallery of Seokjojeon Hall of Deoksugung Palace. Notably, this is also the 80th anniversary of the building's original construction, having been designed by Japanese architect Nakamura Yoshihei (中村與資平, 1880-1963) and built as the Yi Royal Family Museum of Art in 1938.
To these occasions, organized this special exhibition to explore the full history of the world-class collection of the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Korea. Also, for the first time, the museum is showing Design of Deoksugung Museum of Art (德壽宮美術館設計圖), the original drawings and other related materials that were discovered in Japan in November 2014.
The Yi Royal Family Museum of Art was the first building in Korea that was specifically designed as a museum of fine arts. When the museum first opened during the Japanese colonial period, the collection did not include any modern Korean artworks. To promote the idea of Japan’s advanced status, the East Gallery of Seokjojeon Hall was filled with modern Japanese artworks, while the West Gallery displayed traditional arts and crafts of the Joseon Dynasty. Thus, the current exhibition of masterpieces of Korean modern art represents a belated realization of the dreams of Korean artists from the Japanese colonial period.
This exhibition covers numerous stories from the museum's history, from the government-led construction of the building to the discovery and collection of modern Korean artworks that began in earnest with the opening of MMCA Deoksugung in 1998. We hope that this exhibition will enhance appreciation of the treasure s of Korean modern art that have survived the turmoil of history to become invaluable cultural assets for everyone to enjoy.