“The Square: Art and Society in Korea 1900–2019” is a special exhibition celebrating the centennial of the March First Independence Movement and the Korean Provisional Government, as well as the 50th anniversary of the opening of the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Korea – MMCA. The exhibition interprets the contemporary “square”— where solidarity, division, and utter confusion coexist — as a space for questioning and reflecting upon the meaning and role of community, hence addressing the queries and quandaries that individuals face within pluralised communities by way of contemporaneous artworks through such various platforms of art as photography, video, installation, performances of interdisciplinary art within and without the museum walls, and a book of short stories compiling the works of seven novelists.
Running from September 2019 to March 2020 in the three different branches of the museum, the exhibitions explores the role of public square (or “gwangjang” in Korean) in contemporary Korea through a range of artistic and public programmes thus retracing its cultural endeavors of the past five decades and also envisioning the future of Korean art and the MMCA with the public.
Part 1 at MMCA Deoksugung, 17 October 2019 – 9 February 2020
Featuring approximately 120 works and 180 archival materials by some 80 artists, “The Square: Art and Society in Korea 1900–2019, Part 1” spans the years 1900 to 1950, focusing on the legacy of historical figures who upheld a tradition of “righteousness” throughout the bleak times of late-19th-century Enlightenment, Japanese occupation.
Part 2 at MMCA Gwacheon, 17 October 2019 – 31 March 2020
Featuring approximately 430 works and 300 archival materials by some 220 artists, “The Square: Art and Society in Korea 1900–2019, Part 2” reframes the history of Korean contemporary art in line with societal and artistic issues as well as individual lives. The exhibition space unfolds as a place transcending ideologies and generations, inclusive of individuals and communities. The “square” of the exhibition title stands for both a common ideal and a field of reality. Keywords derived from each historical period—such as “war,” “resistance,” “freedom,” and “women”—are interpreted anew and brought to new light through pieces in the MMCA’s collection. Korean art is also reexamined in light of various fields including cultural history, literature, and theater. The collaboration of specialists across disciplines, along with their joint discovery of materials, serves to redefine Korean art history. The MMCA Festival and correlated interactive programs will also invite viewers to join in as co-creators of the exhibition’s “square.”
Part 3 at MMCA Seoul, 7 September 2019 – 9 February 2020
Featuring 23 works by 12 artists, “The Square: Art and Society in Korea 1900-2019, Part 3” asks what the “square” means to those living in this current day and age. As Korea saw the publication of Choi Inhun’s The Square (a representative work in Korea’s era of division), campaigns for democracy, and candlelight vigils, the term “square” has come to bear historicity and timeliness that transcends specific locality.