Four United States institutions partner on South Korea's first major American art survey

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Four United States institutions partner on South Korea's first major American art survey
Charles Demuth, Welcome to Our City, 1921, Oil on canvas, Terra Foundation for American Art, Daniel J. Terra Collection, 1993.3).

CHICAGO, IL.- Art Across America will be the first major survey of historical art of the United States to take place in South Korea. Featuring more than 100 American paintings, as well as decorative arts and design, from the collections of four U.S. institutions, the exhibition debuts at the National Museum of Korea, in Seoul, from February 4–May 19, 2013, and then travels to Daejeon Museum of Art, located near the center of the nation, from June 17–September 1, 2013.

Co-organized by the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA); the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (MFAH); the National Museum of Korea (NMK), the Philadelphia Museum of Art (PMA); and the Terra Foundation for American Art (TFAA), Art Across America has been developed to introduce Korean audiences to three centuries of American art and identity.

“Along with the exhibition of domestic cultural heritages, NMK has been committed to promoting world history and culture,” said Kim Youngna, director of NMK. “Art Across America will offer a great opportunity for the Korean public to better understand the United States, which has maintained a close historical relationship with Korea.”

“Many Koreans are aware of American artists such as Jackson Pollock and Andy Warhol, and familiar with post-1960s American art, but not with the work of artists of earlier periods such as John Singleton Copley, Thomas Cole, Winslow Homer, and Thomas Eakins,” explained Seung-ik Kim, NMK’s lead curator for the exhibition and a specialist in Korean modern art and visual culture.

Works by these artists and others in Art Across America help illuminate dynamic connections between American art and national identity during a historical period in the nation's development with which Koreans are largely unfamiliar. Divided into broad themes and chronologies, the exhibition will introduce American art and identity through six sections of paintings: American People, American Landscapes—East to West, Daily Life in Art, Cosmopolitan America, Modern America, and American Art after 1945.

“The primary aim of the exhibition is to help the Korean people better understand and appreciate American art history in particular and the cultural history of the United States in general,” stated Austen Barron Bailly, Associate Curator of American Art at LACMA. “Sections will highlight the significance of portraiture and landscape painting to the development of an American art history, nineteenth-century genre painting as an expression of American society, American artists' abroad and their myriad responses to Modernism, among other subjects.”

Vignettes of decorative arts and design will be paired with each section to exemplify vernacular traditions, creative achievements of early settlers and indigenous Americans, as well as popular modern design: An Eighteenth-Century Parlor, Native American Art, Pennsylvania German Art, A Nineteenth-Century Parlor, The Aesthetic Movement in America, and California Design after 1945.

“Art Across America presents objects in proximity to the NMK’s outstanding historical collections of Korean art and artifacts, offering visitors the rare opportunity to consider the art and culture of Korea and the United States in relation to one another,” said Peter John Brownlee, Associate Curator at TFAA.

Through TFAA support, Art Across America will be accompanied by a bilingual catalogue published by NMK and distributed in Korea by the Friends of the National Museum of Korea. It will present all exhibition objects with select comparative illustrations and feature an introduction to American art history by Dr. Angela Miller of Washington University in St. Louis.

“This exhibition catalogue will be the first book [to address] the whole story of American art history published in Korea,” shared Kim. “I think this exhibition catalogue will function in Korea as a textbook of American art.”

To complement the exhibition, NMK will present a special lecture series about American art history with renowned American scholars, including Dr. Miller, which will be held every week during the exhibition.

In early 2014 a major exhibition of Korean art from the collection of the National Museum of Korea will open in Philadelphia before travelling on to Los Angeles and Houston.

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