Works From the Fabled Collection of Late Samsung Chairman Lee Kun-hee Are Finally on Public View in South Korea

This week, the Korean public got its first chance to see a smattering of artworks from the multi-billion-dollar collection amassed by the late Samsung Group chairman Lee Kun-hee. 

Two shows dedicated to Lee’s former possessions went on view at major venues in Seoul Wednesday, July 21. The events marked the first time that any pieces from his collection have gone on public display since being conferred to two institutions in April. 

The National Museum of Korea unveiled a presentation of historical artifacts from the Lee collection, including 28 pieces designated by the state as National Treasures. The 77 objects on view represent just a fraction of the more than 21,600 items donated to the institution by Lee’s heirs. 

Meanwhile, the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art (MMCA) opened an exhibition of 58 Modern and contemporary paintings and sculptures by 34 Korean artists selected from the almost 1,500 artworks gifted from the Lee collection. 

Jeong Seon, <i>Clearing after Rain on Mount Inwang</i> (1751). Courtesy of the National Museum of Korea.

Jeong Seon, Clearing after Rain on Mount Inwang (1751). Courtesy of the National Museum of Korea.

“We selected items that have artistic and historic value for this exhibition,” National Museum curator Lee Soo-kyung said during a press preview, according to the Korea Herald. “Our main purpose is to show the characteristics of Lee Kun-hee’s collection.”

On view in the two-month-long National Museum exhibition are rare examples of paintings, porcelain, metal statues, and wooden furniture dating from the prehistoric era to the early 20th century. The highlight of the group is Clearing after Rain on Mount Inwang, a 1751 landscape painting by Joseon-period artist Jeong Seo. It’s thought to be the Samsung chairman’s first major art purchase.

“A large part of the 1,488 artworks donated to our museum from Lee’s collection is Modern art, which our museum has a shortage of,” Park Mi-hwa, curator of the MMCA exhibition, explained in a preview of that institution’s show.

“Accordingly, for the first of our special exhibitions featuring the donated Lee collection, we selected Modern art pieces by Korea’s most popular artists.” Among those represented in the exhibition are landscape painter Byeon Gwansik, abstractionist Kim Whanki, and sculptor Kwon Jinkyu.

The historic gifts to the two museums this spring ended a months’-long debate about the fate of the more than 23,000 works of art following Lee’s death in October of 2020.

Media outlets had previously speculated that Lee’s heirs, including his son Lee Jae-yong and widow Hong Ra-hee, might sell some of the prized artworks to international buyers in order to cover the $11 billion (₩12.5 trillion) inheritance tax bill on the $20 billion (₩ 22 trillion) fortune the chairman left behind.

Ultimately, the heirs chose to keep the collection in the country, distributing its pieces among state institutions, including the National Museum, MMCA, and the Leeum Samsung Museum of Art.

But the artworks, owned by the state, won’t stay in these institutions for long. Earlier this month, the South Korean minister of culture, sports, and tourism, announced plans to build a new museum solely dedicated to the Lee collection. 

Reservations to see the National Museum show are booked for the next month, a spokesperson for the museum told the Herald.

Tickets to see the MMCA show aren’t quite as hard to get. There, reservations are unavailable through early August, per Korea JoongAng Daily

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Sean Scully Opened His Studio to the Public to Showcase the Gripping Paintings He Made During Lockdown—See Them Here

After more than a year working in isolation, Sean Scully decided to go in the opposite direction. He swung open the doors of his studio to invite art lovers in. The Irish-American artist’s latest exhibition, “12 Black Windows,” takes place in two parts—at Lisson Gallery’s space on 24th Street and Scully’s own Chelsea workspace. (Visits can be scheduled here). 

Inside the studio, one encounters The 12 (2020), a 12-panel grouping of new paintings in his ongoing “Landline” series. They range from joyous to somber in their tones and seem to echo the range of emotions felt over the past year, from tragedy to jubilation and relief.

Though these works still engage the alternating bands of color that have defined “Landline” series since Scully began it over 20 years ago, they are rooted in the experiences of the global pandemic, quarantine, Black Lives Matter protests, and mass uncertainty that Scully experienced firsthand in New York. In the studio, the works occupy their own room and act almost like sentries at a fortified structure or pillars in a temple, conferring a sense of gravity in opposition to the unpredictability of the outside world. 

The world in which we live, the existential threat from COVID, and the environmental problems we face have influenced me greatly in my art,” the artist said in a statement.

In the gallery, the exhibition continues with Dark Windows (2020), a suite of five works created at the height of the pandemic. Here, Scully introduces a new element, the seemingly sinister black square—an allusion to Malevich’s 1915 Black Box. The shape—which evokes censors, stunned silence, and even “Blackout Tuesday” Instagram posts—represents a departure for Scully, whose work normally calls to mind open landscapes and horizon lines.

“There is no doubt that they are a response to the pandemic and to what mankind has been doing to nature,” Scully said. “What really strikes me as tragic is that what is a relief for nature is a torment for us. And what is a pleasure for us is a torment for nature. That seems to be the conundrum that we’ve got ourselves into.”

See the installation of “12 Black Windows” and get an inside look at the show below.


Sean Scully: 12 Black Windows” is on view at Lisson Gallery through June 18, 2021.

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Dr. Fauci Has Donated the 3-D Coronavirus Model He Used to Explain the Pandemic to the Public to the Smithsonian’s American History Museum

The coronavirus is heading to the Smithsonian—but don’t be alarmed. It’s actually a 3-D printed model of the virus that Anthony Fauci donated to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History, in Washington, DC.

You might have spotted the blue and orange model, featuring the virus’s distinctive protein spikes—the part that latches onto and infects cells—in Fauci’s briefings. The director of the Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health and science advisor to President Joe Biden, has used it over the past 13 months to help explain the COVID-19 pandemic to Congress, journalists, and the public.

“I wanted to pick something that was really meaningful to me and important because I used it so often,” Fauci told the New York Times. “It’s a really phenomenally graphic way to get people to understand.”

The 80-year-old physician is the recipient of the museum’s annual Great Americans Medal, recognizing his decades-long career fighting infectious diseases, from the early years of the AIDS crisis to, most recently, leading the nation’s response to the coronavirus.

A model of COVID-19, known as coronavirus, is seen ahead of testimony from Dr. Francis Collins, Director of the National Institutes of Health, during a US Senate Appropriations subcommittee hearing on the plan to research, manufacture and distribute a coronavirus vaccine, known as Operation Warp Speed, July 2, 2020, on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. Photo by Saul Loeb-Pool/Getty Images.

A model of COVID-19, known as coronavirus. Photo by Saul Loeb-Pool/Getty Images.

“This has been a terrible year in so many respects,” Fauci said during a livestreamed ceremony. “Decades from now, people will be talking about the experience that we went through.”

The acquisition of the model, which technically depicts the virus in its infectious form, the SARS-CoV-2 virion, is an extension of the Smithsonian’s ongoing efforts to collect artifacts related to the pandemic for posterity.

In April, the history museum formed a Rapid Response Collecting Task Force to acquire objects in real time, and it has been welcoming submissions from the public through the digital platform “Stories of 2020.” But even before the COVID-19 outbreak, the institution was planning a new exhibition, “In Sickness and In Health,” about disease in the US from colonial times to the present day, and the ways it has altered the course of history.

Anthony S. Fauci holds his personal 3D-printed model of the SARS-CoV-2 virion, which he is donating to the National Museum of American History, during the “Great Americans Awards Program.” Photo courtesy of the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History, Washington, DC.

Anthony S. Fauci holds his personal 3D-printed model of the SARS-CoV-2 virion, which he is donating to the National Museum of American History, during the “Great Americans Awards Program.” Photo courtesy of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History, Washington, DC.

The museum hopes to augment its holdings with more objects linked to Fauci. “Dr. Fauci has helped save millions of lives and advanced the treatment and our understanding of infectious and immunologic diseases across more than five decades of public service,” museum director Anthea Hartig said in a statement. “His humanitarianism and dedication truly exemplify what it means to be a Great American.”

Currently, Fauci is part of a 1995 oral history featuring interviews about the AIDS epidemic. This year, the museum also acquired Francesca Magnani’s digital photo of a New York man wearing a T-shirt reading “Fauci,” and objects from when the doctor threw the ceremonial first pitch on the delayed opening day for the Washington Nationals baseball team in July.

Fauci previously received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian award, from President George W. Bush in 2008, in recognition of his long career in public health.

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Hungarian Conservatives Threaten to Tear Down a Public Art Installation That Has a Black Lives Matter Message

Conservatives in Hungary are threatening to tear down a planned public art installation in Budapest because of its social-justice message. The three-foot-tall sculpture, by artist Péter Szalay, depicts a rainbow-striped Statue of Liberty on bended knee, an allusion to US athletes kneeling during the national anthem to protest police violence against Black Americans. Its right fist is upraised and its left hand holds a tablet that reads “Black Lives Matter.”

Szalay has said that a high-profile right-wing figure emailed him and threatened that he would be “punished” for the art installation.

Prime minister Viktor Orbán, who is president of Hungary’s right-wing, nationalist Fidesz party, has been vocal in his opposition to the Black Lives Matter movement. In response to Szalay’s artwork, Orbán’s chief of staff, Gergely Gulyás, proclaimed that “Black Lives Matter is basically a racist movement. The racist is not the person who opposes a BLM statue, but the person who erects one.”

Hungary’s politics have grown increasingly conservative in recent years. Last May, the government ended legal recognition of sex changes. A few months later, it banned adoptions for same-sex couples and amended the constitution to declare that, in a family, “the mother is a woman and the father is a man.”

Szalay’s statue, 3-D printed in 12 pieces and held in place by magnets, is one of seven winners of a public art contest organized by the deputy of Budapest’s ninth district, Suzi Dada of the Two-Tailed Dog party, a satirical political party known primarily for its street art. Dada serves under the district’s mayor, Krisztina Baranyi, an independent who supports the project, which is slated to go on view for two weeks in the spring.

“The BLM goals of opposing racism and police brutality are just as relevant in Hungary as anywhere else,” Baranyi told the Guardian.

Despite the imagery in Szalay’s installation, the artist told the Guardian that it “does not declare itself on the side of or against BLM. According to my artistic purpose, it is undecidedly swaying between the two readings.”

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