Museum Hours
Thu: 1 PM–8 PM
Fri–Mon: 10 AM–5 PM
Tue–Wed: Closed
200 Larkin Street
San Francisco, CA 94102

20th-Century Korean Art

2nd Floor
Koret Korean Galleries

Explore the contributions of Korean-born artists to 20th-century art with works by Nam June Paik, Whanki Kim, and Yoong Bae.

Discover the impact of Korean artists on 20th-century global art movements with works by pioneering abstract artist Whanki Kim; Nam June Paik, one of the first artists to experiment with video and television as mediums for art; and Bay Area painter and printmaker Yoong Bae. This presentation highlights works from the museum collection that show how each artist’s cultural heritage influenced his modernist practice.

A member of the first generation of Korean abstract artists, Whanki Kim (1913–1974) played a vital role in establishing a modernist language for painting during the country’s rapid modernization. Two of his sketchbooks, from 1957 and 1963, capture Paris, Seoul, and New York at mid-century and reveal the artist’s thoughtful process. Along with a painting by the artist, also on view, they convey Kim’s affection for nature and traditional Korean objects, particularly white wares of the Joseon dynasty (1392–1911).

Nam June Paik (1932–2006) is world-renowned as a pioneer of video art and was a key member of the neo-Dada group Fluxus. He continues to be an important influence in the international art world. Zen Drawing II (1992) is one of Paik’s few surviving replica TVs; its “screen” shows two figures in conversation in a style resembling traditional East Asian brushwork.

Yoong Bae (1928–1992), who moved to the Bay Area from Korea in 1974, infused Korean artistic traditions with elements from modern Western art in his prints and paintings. His ink-on-paper abstract paintings dating from the 1980s, from the Songs of a Tortoise (Guga) series, on view in this rotation, express harmony between humanity and nature.


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Image: Untitled (detail), 1963, by Kim Whanki (Korean, 1913–1974). Opaque watercolors on paper. Asian Art Museum, Museum purchase, 2018.147. © Whanki Foundation, Whanki Museum. Photograph © Asian Art Museum.