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New York hosts ancient Korea debut in West

30 october 2013, 12:56
0
©AFP
©AFP
Drawn to bling? A fan of gold jewelry? Keen on Buddha? If so, New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art offers the newest ticket to fend off the winter chill, AFP reports.

An exhibition of exquisite treasures from ancient Korea opens in New York next week, marking the first display anywhere outside Asia of the little known Silla kingdom.

The most famous export from Korea, a territory split in two by war, are the TVs, tablets and phones of South Korea multi-national Samsung, the exhibition's sponsors.

The ancient kingdom of Silla, which rose to prominence in the fifth century, is barely known in the West.

"Silla Korea's Golden Kingdom" sets out to change that by showcasing dazzling art 16 centuries old on loan from the National Museum of Korea in Seoul and Gyeongju.

"This show is not to be missed," said Thomas Campbell, the British-educated director the Met. "These stunning works of art are rich in beauty and history... Their story will be a revelation to the public," he added.

Soyoung Lee, associate curator and co-curator of the exhibition, said its uniqueness was a key selling point.

New Yorkers can boast about living in the cultural capital of the world even if the city has been recently criticised for selling more art than it produces.

"New Yorkers are so sophisticated, they've seen everything but this is something they haven't yet seen so we were very eager to present it here," Lee told AFP.

The more than 130 exhibits, which date back to 400-800, will be on show from next Tuesday until February 23 as part of an exhibition that took five years to organise.

The Met is a permanent fixture on the tourist trial and of New York society, and Lee hopes that at least 100,000 visitors will pass through the exhibition.

"But we hope it will go way over that. We just hope that the word will spread and the gold and all of the wonderful objects here will draw people in," she said.

The exhibition is divided into three parts: glittering golden treasures -- beautifully intricate and in perfect condition -- from fifth and sixth century tombs.

The highlight is a gold crown and belt dating back from the second half of the fifth century.

There are also stunning gold earrings and necklaces, from the same era but which look brand new.

"You can't beat gold!" Lee said. "I think gold jewelry will really draw in a diverse crowd."

The second section highlights the links that Silla art had to China, Europe, central Asia and the Middle East.

There are Roman-style glass vessels imported from modern day Syria, the Palestinian territories and even Afghanistan -- all today in the news for war not art.

There are also nods to the greatness of China, the economy now snapping at the heels of US dominance, with exquisite porcelain and other ceramics.

The third section showcases Buddhist art. The kingdom officially adopted the faith in 527, transforming Silla society, culture and burial customs.

Gold, bronze and granite statues of Buddha are on show, including a nearly one meter-tall Buddha in pensive pose, one of those marked as a National Treasure in Korea.

"For the lay people, the statues in the last part I mean they're just exquisite," said Lee.

There are large screen Samsung digital presentations and interactive tablets that explore some of the objects on show and preview the catalog.

One screen recreates step by step the building from 751 to 774 of the Seokguram Grotto, one of the most important early Buddhist monuments in East Asia.

The Met is the largest art museum in the United States and last year had record attendance of 6.28 million.

In principle, entry can be free but the museum is allowed to advertise a "recommended" fee of $25 for adults with concessions for students and the elderly.

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