Monday, November 8, 2010

60 years of diplomacy: Korean embroidery reaches Spain's shores

A traditional embroidered folding screen

By Ines Min

The fine crosshatch detail of naturally-dyed textiles stretches across an expanse of cultural artifacts. What else could these be, but the serene complexities of ancestral Koreans’ needlework? 

In commemoration of 60 years of diplomatic ties between Korea and Spain, the Museum of Korean Embroidery will open its debut Spanish exhibition with a collection of 110 works. “Korean Textiles, A Thousand Years of Work,” this Thursday at the Museo del Traje in Madrid, and runs through Jan. 30, 2011. 

A variety of “bojagi,” traditional square-cut cloth, ornately decorated and used for wrapping, storing or carrying things, and embroidered folding screens will be featured from the museum’s collection, offering a wide breadth of Korean history and culture for viewing in Spain.

“I hope that the Spanish people will be able to garner a great interest in traditional Korean culture through the creative, embroidered works of Korean women,” said collector Huh Dong-hwa, director of the local museum, in a statement. 

The ancient embroidered pieces were once a highly-regarded intellectual skill for the women of the Joseon Kingdom (1392-1910). “I also pray that Koreans in Spain will be able to enjoy this exhibition with a dignity and pride in the value of their native culture.”

The embroidery museum, which has previously exhibited in 10 foreign countries including France and the United States, opens their first show in Spain since going abroad in 1978. The exhibition comes after Huh’s third publication, “Prolongation de l’esprit II,” a review of the collector’s latest finds and personal artwork. 

Huh, who has been developing his own environmentally-friendly work for years, creates a unique genre by recycling the ancient textiles of the past and reusing them in a new collage form. Two of the director’s works will be included in the Spanish exhibition.

“Huh’s endeavors to break apart and re-compose old artifacts restore meaning to defaced and worn fabrics,” Lee O-young, the first minister of culture, said in the publication. “The original is then remade, offering a different kind of beauty.” 

The Museo del Traje was originally inaugurated in 1975 as the Spanish Museum of Contemporary Art, before undergoing several name changes and renovations. 

The Museum of Korean Embroidery has held more than 3,000 pieces of embroidery and patchwork since its opening in 1976. It is located near exit 10 from Hakdong Station, subway line 7. For more information, visit (Korean only) or call (02) 515-5114.

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