“An art museum is the content.”
No matter how beautiful the building may be, when it is poor in content of which cannot impress the audience, the art museum means for nothing.
There should be works of art that can convey profound and emotional resonance for the visitors who appreciate the works when they leave the museum. I have been told from the man who has traveled to art museums all around the world, “Though there are many art museums in the world, good art museums are one of the few.”
It implies for those museums that have sprung up like mushrooms after the rain stops in this century will require a long stretch of time to build its own content to become a beautiful museum both nominally and virtually. A marvelous building without touching the audience will achieve nothing.
The Whanki Museum took almost twenty years including the period of laboring.
Opening the Whanki Museum, we envisage various projects in taking its time to be ripen. Pursuing the goal, we will follow the course of history on “what and how to do” and it will be destined with our nation and mankind.
Moreover, the museums of today must be actively alive.
It also ought to complete the needs of us all; its visual, musical, and poetic nuance should articulate to audiences.
It reminds me of a critic’s description about someone’s artwork, “It is a novel painting in oil on linen, painted in green but not a landscape, blue but not the sky, yellow but not the sun, and it contains forms but not the paper cut-outs of MATISSE.”
I hope to make such a museum and will do so.
To commemorate the art world of KIM Whanki (Pen name: Suwha), the pioneer of Korean modern art in the 20th century, the Whanki Museum was established by KIM HyangAn in 1992 at the foot of Mt. Bukak, Seoul. As the founder of the museum, spouse, and emotional and financial supporter, KIM HyangAn had delivered the oeuvre of Whanki to the world throughout the researches, exhibitions and publications after he passed away in 1974. In addition, she strived to develop the art society and culture in support of the creative activities of contemporary artists.
Designed by Korean-American architect WOO Kyusung, the Whanki Museum is located in Buamdong, a neighborhood of Seongbuk-dong where Whanki and HyangAn lived and left affectionate traces of life and art of many years. The building is made of Korean materials reminiscent of the national sentiment, and the architectonic beauty of the walls of the dome contrasting hue of granite reminds of Whanki’s figurative works based on Korean nature. The inside of galleries are freely open, connect, and communicate with each other, while creating an atmosphere where artists can organize the works chronically and thematically in an independent arrangement or immerse oneself in the unique atmosphere of sharing on a subject. The Whanki Museum is a modern Korean architecture praised by architects and welcomes architectural pilgrims, as well as the exhibition visitors from around the world.
The fundamental purpose of the establishment of the Whanki Museum is to organize and preserve the art world of Whanki, and to represent the artist’s works and inspiring aesthetics to the world. In addition, the museum inherited the significant institution of the Whanki Foundation such as the “Prix Whanki (Whanki Prize),” which KIM HyangAn started in the mid-1970s in supporting exhibitions by selecting artists who work vigorously regardless of nationality, age, or gender, based on the Whanki and HyangAn’s belief that the young people are the future of the world and a treasure trove of artistic energy.
On behalf of the Whanki Museum, I will discover and introduce young artists in respect of Whanki’s lifelong aspiration on nurturing, enjoying conversations, and socializing with young artists, paying great attention to leading them. Grounded upon the purpose of establishment of the Whanki Foundation and the Whanki Museum, all of the exhibitions, events, and educational programs have been continued by the Whanki Museum not only for social trends or popular expectation, but a way to practice of creating the world that constantly changing through the work of art in pursuing Whanki’s spirit of challenge and endurance.
As the founder HyangAn said, “an art museum is the content,” the content of the museum is the key element. All employees of the Whanki Museum, including myself, will endeavor to provide the contents that are flexibly reflecting the present and reaching out to the public.
Director PARK Mee-Jung
Early in 1988, the Whanki Foundation decided to build the Whanki Museum in Seoul. Since I had been close to KIM Whanki, I was requested to design the museum. Reflecting a length on Whanki’s life and work, I wanted to create a space for his works that would complement the elements of nature-the moon, mountains, clouds, rocks, and trees that were so important to his art.
When I first began designing the museum, the site designated for the project was limited to the area around the current main building, but it was completed the Annex, Parking area and Garden as the Whanki Foundation were able to expand the property.
Buam-dong Valley is narrow to accommodate a large building and the lot area is limited and complex. Moreover, building an art museum relatively requires a larger volume and a higher ceiling for the gallery space. To meet this conflicting condition, underground space was fully considered, and segmented the building so, each building has its own individuality and function, while the aggregate as a whole they have full meaning of art museum.
The museum buildings are grouped around the central courtyard within the area defined by the wall, and follow the axis of the valley. Along this axis, the northern buildings headed the direction to the flow and the southern buildings aligned with the boundary of the property. The extensions of each axis of the building are designed to be weaved together and balanced within the flow which reflect the large and small variations in order.
The coinciding directions between the building and the valley not only emphasize the spatial flow of the site, but also help to natural segmentation of the buildings. This orientation enhances clear view of the landscapes of Bukhansansung (Mount Bukhan fortress wall) and Mount Inwang landscapes and, in a response, a series of the outer walls running east-to-west cuts the restless view of the city. The height of the building exposed above the ground is implicit of the whole terrain, and the gallery at its highest point roofed by two barrel vaults gives significant volume and meaning to the permanent collection pavilion. The buildings on the southeastern boundary gradually increase each floor in tiers as the reminiscent of terrain rising eastward, desgined to harmonize architectural components into the external condition of the site.
The materials for the museum are used as in traditional Korean architecture. The intersection of the building and ground is stone treated as masonry. The above is expressed as a plane stone sheet and rises to the lead-coated copper plate on the roof. The exterior of annex building’s is cement brick, the same as the compound walls, to express its ordinary nature and contrast with the uniqueness of main building.
The interior space of the museum centralized around 8 meters cubic space, located below the courtyard. This space accommodates exhibitions and assembly functions, representing the museum’s center of circulation and orientation like the central square of the city. Each gallery is connected by staircases around this plaza. Most of the interior spaces are painted white. Walls and ceilings are treated with the same material and color, thus limiting the plastic character to size and form only. Artificial lighting is used in the exhibition spaces for controlled illumination of the artwork; this control gives the ability to conserve light-sensitive works. Except for the drawing gallery, all exhibition spaces have daylight introduced to enhance the sense of space and connection to the outside.
Most of the interior spaces are painted white. Both walls and ceilings are treated with the same material and color, thus limiting the plastic character to size and form only.
The Whanki Museum was completed in five years from the planning. People who use a museum change through time, but the artwork it houses lives on, and the museum remains. I tried to base the design of the Whanki Museum on lasting issues, knowing that the building would inevitably be of our own time. These issues included the building’s relationship to the topography and properties of the land, and the order of the building’s spatial structure as an intrinsic whole. I would like to think that the building will become both new and familiar as time passes.
WOO Kyusung, Whanki Museum (Single Building) (Gloucester, Massachusetts: Rockport Publisher, 1999).