The Asian Art Museum in San Francisco has a fantastic exhibit up right now, through Jan 12 2014, of images and objects related to royal ceremonies and processions in Joseon Dynasty Korea, many of them on loan from the National Palace Museum of Korea itself. And, despite all these objects being on loan, photography was allowed! Thank you, Asian Art Museum!!
My research focuses on ritual processions, and paintings of them, and so this exhibit was particularly interesting for me. I’ve looked at a number of paintings, prints, and illustrated books depicting Ryukyuan processions in early modern Japan. Comparisons to Korean processions could, in theory, be quite useful for me. And, indeed, it was interesting to see how similar the content of the images was, and how different the format and composition. In short, we see a lot of the same elements – extremely similar style of palanquins, ceremonial umbrellas, names of official posts – but, whereas the Japanese depictions of Ryukyuan & Korean processions generally display figures in single- or double-file, and quite large, in great detail, in a manner that might be said to resemble the view of the procession from the side of street, here we see something perhaps more resembling a bird’s eye view, with figures spread out in a grid, rather than bunched up in file. In any case, in short, it’s certainly given me a lot to think about, and I look forward to getting my hands on the catalog (available on Amazon for a very reasonable $26.42).
Plus, the exhibition included quite a few objects which certainly seem like they would be of great historical significance & really special to get to see. I regret my ignorance when it comes to Korean history… I’ve seen exhibits of objects of similar significance for Japanese history, and have felt it a very special and fortunate opportunity.
This was really a fantastic exhibit; I’m sorry I didn’t get to spend more time and see it more thoroughly. But I absolutely recommend it to anyone who can make it out.
In Grand Style: Celebrations in Korean Art During the Joseon Dynasty is on display at the Asian Art Museum at Civic Center, San Francisco, from Oct 25 2013 until Jan 12 2014. Admission to the special exhibit is included in regular admission to the museum.