International Symposium “Korean Art in the West: Tracing Objects from Creation to Collection” (26-27 June 2019)

© Bernisches Historisches Museum, Bern. Photograph Nadja Frey.

International Symposium “Korean Art in the West: Tracing Objects from Creation to Collection” (26-27 June 2019)

 University of Zurich, Section for East Asian Art

Wednesday, 26th and Thursday, 27th June 2019, room RAA-G-01
(Aula, Rämistrasse 59, 8001 Zurich)

Symposium abstract

A two-day international symposium Korean Art in the West: Tracing Objects from Creation to Collection will take place at the University of Zurich, Switzerland on 26th-27th June 2019. This symposium will feature leading and emerging scholars from Korea, Japan, Switzerland, the USA, the United Kingdom, Germany, France and Sweden specialising in Korean art history.

Objects from East Asia can be found in many museums and private collections throughout the world. Objects of art travel, change ownership and acquire new meanings and functions. Sometimes they are subjects of evaluations and victims of cultural clichés. Igor Kopytoff in his seminal essay “The Cultural Biography of Things” proposes to treat objects as living beings with distinct biographies and suggests a number of questions pertinent to their study: what were the circumstances and purposes of the production of the objects, how do the objects move and change in contexts of reception and use (Kopytoff 1986: 66).

The symposium aims to represent various case studies of Korean art in the West to create an overview of the state of research and methodologies in the field. It seeks to explore the trajectories of movement of Korean art in the past centuries and its reception outside of Korea. Our focus lies on the collecting practices, museum displays and cultural mediation, appropriations and uses of Korean art in the West, and on the comparative perspectives on similar processes in Korea.

The symposium is planned as part of a larger research project that includes an exhibition at the Historical and Ethnological Museum in St. Gallen entitled “Poesie der Farben” (“The Poetry of Colours”, held at the Historical and Ethnological Museum in St. Gallen, 2nd Sept 2017–10th June 2018), which was co-organised by the University of Zurich. The origin of this project lies in the efforts to include Korea more deeply in the study of East Asian art. Another purpose is to encourage further academic studies in Korean art, history and culture at the university level.

As the first symposium of its kind in bringing together Korean art scholars to Switzerland, it attempts to give a deeper insight into the collections of Korean art in Switzerland and other countries as well as to open a new field of public and academic interest in the study of Korea. The symposium can be seen as a keystone in Korean art studies in Switzerland. Furthermore, it seeks to make Korean art accessible to a wider audience and so to raise public interest and awareness of Korean art and culture. The symposium serves to illustrate the long-standing relations between Switzerland and Korea, and aims to reinforce these connections for the future.


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