Audio Commentary


Welcome to the exhibition, The Space Between: The Modern in Korean Art.

The Los Angeles County Museum of Art, in collaboration with the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Korea, is proud to present the first major exhibition of Korean modern art ever held in the West. The exhibition covers the years 1897 to 1965, which was a period of unparalleled trauma and turmoil in Korea. In the late nineteenth century, the Joseon dynasty—which had maintained a strict policy of isolation from the West—was finally forced to open its ports to the world. From that day forward, the Korean Peninsula has occupied a very tenuous geopolitical position, continuously walking a diplomatic tightrope while balancing the interests of China, Japan, Russia, and the United States. One of the darkest moments came in 1910, when Korea was forcibly annexed by Japan, initiating more than three decades of colonial rule that lasted until the end of World War II in 1945. Even then, Koreans did not have time to enjoy their independence, as their country was immediately torn apart by the Korean War, which led to the division of North and South Korea.

But even in these years of tragedy and chaos, artists were born. Before independence, Korean artists learned about new Western trends and styles through Japan or in rare cases, directly from France and the United States. By integrating these new styles with their own artistic techniques and traditions, Korean modern artists were able to produce many unique masterpieces that blended East and West, past and present. In this exhibition, we will explore the precious legacy of these extraordinary artists, who emerged in the darkest of times to shine as beacons of hope and beauty.