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Review: Joseon Dynasty “erotic” art exhibit (SFW)

January 18, 2013 - Chris Backe

Promoted in both the Korea Herald and Joongang Daily, this exhibit of Joseon Dynasty genre paintings is the first public exhibition of several dozen 19th century paintings. With the headlines of both stories involving the angle of “erotic” paintings, you would be forgiven for thinking they comprise a large portion of the exhibit.

Not so much.

Enter Gallery Hyundai – complete with Park Myeong-ja, the president of the gallery. She apparently spent years working her “connections” to put these exhibits together. The exhibit, which includes four floors worth of paintings, dedicates precisely (only) one to those floors to the 19-and-up crowd. (Don’t worry, this post is safe-for-work.)

해산 유속 by 천녑도 – some fine folks searching for seafood.

That’s one long pipe she’s got there – entitled 소당 이재관 by 오창명상도.

Stone masons at work – it’s cropped in to show some detail and the lack of trust in the guy on the left.

The second floor of the first building has a sticker restricting entry to the 19-and-up sector. Since there were two guys looking to be ‘security’ discouraging picture-taking, take a look at one picture, also seen on the Korea Herald’s report:

The press clearly received the memo about this exhibit.

This is one of the tamer ones (presumably why it was chosen for the Herald) – about half of them show at least one set of (drawn) genitals that were definitely racy at the time. These are definitely original works – all are framed behind glass as you would expect, and almost all show age spots. Overheard were plenty of giggles, the sort you might expect from people coming across an older guy and younger girl in any number of positions.

It’s at this point where the attention shifts to a second building, an annex behind the two larger buildings right along the main street.

즁한 죠인 형별 – apparently the man was being punished for something serious, though like the rest of the exhibit there was no English around whatsoever.

The annex’s collection mainly consists of the sort of images you’ve probably already seen when it comes to the Joseon Dynasty. While no one alive today was around to see it, the images of weaving, swinging from a big swing, and cleaning cloth are pretty commonly seen in other museums.

One of the few that I hadn’t seen elsewhere – entitled 갓쟝이 모양, these folks were all about the hat-making.

As a whole, I was disappointed. If you’ve been to any museum that describes Korean culture or the lifecycle, some of this will look familiar. The highlighted and headlining section of ‘erotic’ paintings comprised only a small fraction of the exhibit, and the whole exhibit was entirely in Korean. To be sure, the aforementioned articles in English helped put some numbers to what was actually inside, but even the erotic pictures aren’t much different from what you can find anyday at the Love Castle in Gyeongju. The first room there features a  larger variety

Not recommended.

Gallery Hyundai – Anguk station, line 3, exit 1. Walk to the intersection and take a right – you’ll see the sign above the Gallery Hyundai on your right. Start here, buy your ticket, then walk a little ways to a little place just before the second building. This annex houses the other two floors worth of exhibits. The exhibit goes through February 24th – 5,000 won, open 10am-6pm (last admission 40 minutes before closing)

Agoda

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