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Korean Renaissance

The exhibition is made possible by the Korea Foundation and The Kun-Hee Lee Fund for Korean Art.

The catalogue is made possible by The Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Foundation and The Kun-Hee Lee Fund for Korean Art.

Additional support is provided by the Korea Foundation.

Art of the Korean Renaissance, 1400–1600

March 17–June 21, 2009

Accompanied by a catalogue

This international loan exhibition presents approximately forty-five works of art that illustrate the height of artistic production under court and elite patronage during the first two hundred years of the Joseon dynasty (1392–1910), a time of extraordinary cultural achievements. The diverse yet cohesive group of secular and religious paintings, porcelain, sculpture, lacquer, and metalwork highlights the aesthetics, conventions, and innovations of a Neo-Confucian elite and its artistic milieu. This is the first in a series of special international loan exhibitions at the Museum focusing on significant periods in Korean art history.

The establishment of the Joseon ("Fresh Dawn") dynasty in 1392 following a revolutionary yet bloodless coup symbolized a purge—of the Goryeo regime's corrupt finale and of Mongol domination—and restoration. The new political vision of the state promoted Neo-Confucianism in both theoretical explorations and practical implementation in nearly every aspect of the Joseon society. Buddhism, the state-sanctioned religion for more than a thousand years, was officially rejected, though private worship and artistic production continued. The Neo-Confucian royal court and elite literati (yangban), the primary patrons of the arts, embraced and encouraged the advancement of secular art and culture. The fifteenth and sixteenth centuries witnessed the revival and reinterpretation of classical traditions alongside significant achievements in innovative art forms. Under King Sejong (r. 1418–50), who was the embodiment of a renaissance monarch, a unique, phonetic alphabet was created, permitting an accurate transcription of the native language and the wide dissemination of Confucian texts and mores.

An extraordinary cultural renaissance took shape during the first two centuries of the Joseon dynasty—a captivating and dynamic sampling of which is presented in this exhibition. You are invited to travel back in time to experience its wonder and significance.