Skip to main content

1/8

Visitors view the painting “Bull” by Lee Jung-seob at the National Museum of Korea in Seoul. Photo by Thomas Maresca/UPI

SEOUL, April 29 (UPI) — A year after late Samsung chairman Lee Kun-hee’s huge art collection was donated to South Korean museums, a new exhibit is sparking public interest in masterpieces once held by the richest tycoon in the country.

The exhibit, titled “A Collector’s Invitation,” opened Thursday at the National Museum of Korea in Seoul. It features 355 selections from more than 23,000 works bequeathed by Lee’s heirs after his death, ranging from a 6th-century gilt bronze sculpture to groundbreaking 20th-century works by Korean artists.

Highlights include the iconic Clearing after the rain on Mount Inwangan 18th-century ink and wash painting by Jeong Seon and paintings by modern Korean masters Kim Whanki, Lee Jung-seop and Park Soo-keun.

According to curators, a series of public exhibitions of Lee Kun-hee’s collection have sparked public interest in Korean art. Photo by Thomas Maresca/UPI

Are also exhibited Water Lily Pond by renowned French Impressionist Claude Monet, a star of Lee’s extensive collection of Western art which also includes pieces by Pablo Picasso and Salvador Dali.

The exhibition is intended to “ruminate on the philosophy of Lee Kun-hee as reflected in his act of collecting cultural heritage and art objects across time and genre and giving them away”, Min Byoung-chan, director general of the National Museum of Korea, said in a statement.

The Samsung chairman, who oversaw the company’s rise from a cheap electronics maker to a global powerhouse, died in 2020 at the age of 78.

There was heavy speculation after his death about the future of his collection, estimated to be around $1.7 billion. Lee’s heirs decided to bequeath the entire treasure to two Seoul museums as well as a smaller number of works to five regional galleries.

Photo by Thomas Maresca/UPI

The “donation of the century”, as the National Museum of Korea calls it, spans from the prehistoric period to the 21st century and includes books, furniture, metal objects and calligraphic works alongside sculptures and paintings. .

The family also announced at the time that they would have to pay the largest inheritance tax in South Korean history on Lee’s estate, around $10.8 billion.

The collection, which was first displayed at two exhibitions last July, has sparked renewed interest in Korean art among the public, National Museum of Korea curator Lee Jae- ho, during a preview of the exhibition this week.

“People didn’t know so much about collecting in the past,” Lee said. “Through this bequest, Korean audiences have had a greater opportunity to experience the work. It sparks interest in Korean art and culture in general.”

Tickets for the exhibit are already sold out through June, the National Museum said.

“A Collector’s Invitation” will run until August 28 and then move to the Gwangju National Museum, where it is scheduled to open on October 4.