The Square: Art and Society in Korea 1900-2019 Part 2. 1950—2019
The Square Part 2 reframes the interrelations of Korean society and Korean contemporary art as part of the 50th Anniversary Exhibition of National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Korea (MMCA). The exhibition reveals the circulation of artists and their works amid societal contexts and personal lives, thus visualizing the chronological flow of time through artworks and archival materials. The diversified display also cross-references, compiles, and reinterprets art and archives in line with literature, theatrical plays, and commissioned works. The exhibition draws upon concepts of the “Square,” “Private Chamber,” and “Sea”
and their corresponding relationships with society, the individual, and ideals, as depicted in Choi Inhun's novel The Square (1961); these key concepts shed light on the effort mounted by artists to criticize authorities upon the square and pursue their ideals through new styles of art. The museum's exhibition space is organized into two squares displaying significant works from each historical era along with designs, handicrafts, and everyday objet culled from the museum collection.
The first space comprises Gallery 1, Gallery 2, and the Center Hall, which displays Korean art in the context of contemporaneous social currents starting from the 1950 Korea War. Each time period is explained in light of five keywords borrowed from the novel The Square. Important works of art are shown alongside artifacts
such as ceramics, stamps, posters, and architectural models to recreate the rich textures of life in former times. Visitors can also deepen their understanding through special sections covering key events of each era. The second space presents an actual square in a circular exhibition hall. In Korean history, the square is where unnamed activists sacrificed themselves for the sake of social progress. As such, the exhibition hall serves as a space for remembering and mourning their lives. The works by artists are displayed as an act of laying flowers in commemoration, an act that will be completed through the participation of visitors. The exhibition thus reveals the organic relationship between the “Square” and “Private Chamber” while also capturing the passion toward society and tears of discouragement in those who headed toward the “Sea.” Portraits of heroes that frequently appear in historical surveys are not included in the exhibition. Instead, visitors will find former times and present-day people recreated through the memories and sentiments of artists.