Museum1: Beyond Time | Leeum, Samsung Museum of Art
Skip to Main content Skip to navigation

Current Exhibitions > Permanent Exhibition

MUSEUM 1 : Beyond Time

Traditional Korean Art

Leeum, Samsung Museum of Art, has collected, preserved, exhibited, and researched important Korean artworks from prehistoric times through the Joseon Dynasty (1395-1910). As a result, the museum has built a collection of fine artworks representative of Korea’s long history across diverse fields as well as highly valuable scholarly research materials.

Leeum’s traditional art collection includes all genres of Korean art, ranging from ceramics, painting and calligraphy, metal works, and Buddhist art to wood furniture, folk painting, and printed books and manuscripts. Celadon from the Goryeo Dynasty (937-1392) as well as Buncheong wares and white porcelain from the Joseon Dynasty in the collection demonstrate great achievements made by Korean potters. The painting and calligraphy collection includes masterpieces by leading painters such as Jeong Seon and Gim Hong-do, along with other works that cover various time periods and themes. The Goryeo Buddhist paintings and folk paintings also constitute an integral part of the museum’s robust painting collection. The metal works and Buddhist art add diversity to Leeum’s traditional art collection. The metal ware collection includes pieces representative of each time period in Korean history, from the Bronze Age to the late Joseon Dynasty, while the Buddhist statues and ritual tools illustrate characteristics of Korean sculpture beyond their original function as objects of worship.

MUSEUM 1_Beyond Time

MUSEUM 1 was built in the shape of a castle and is reminiscent of a symbolic fortress that protects the timeless value of traditional art. Inside this building, Leeum displays over 120 pieces of carefully selected traditional art on four floors based on theme and time period. The 4th floor has celadon from the Goryeo Dynasty; the 3rd floor houses Buncheong wares and white porcelain from the Joseon Dynasty; the 2nd floor features traditional paintings and calligraphy works; and the 1st floor has Buddhist art and metal works. Furthermore, MUSEUM 1 has provided a communion between artworks under a shared theme called “Beyond Time” by exhibiting selected contemporary artworks alongside traditional works in a harmonious way since the summer of 2014 to celebrate Leeum’s 10th anniversary.


Cheongja, a porcelaneous stoneware with a fine bluish-green glaze known in the West by the French term celadon, was the predominant ceramic ware in Korea during the Goryeo Dynasty from the tenth century to the end of the fourteenth. It was used in court circles and in Buddhist temples.

Goryeo celadon is considered by many to be Korean’s greatest artistic achievement. Connoisseurs over the world consider it to be one of the most subtle, highly developed, and technically advanced branches of the ceramic arts.

3F_Buncheong Ware & White Porcelain

Buncheong was the predominant ceramic ware from the 1390s until the 1590s. Buncheong glaze is of a celadon type, the name meaning “pale blue green.” It was produced in large quantities for everyday use by commoners but it was an overall white slip decoration. The most typical kind of decoration was the stamped-and-inlaid technique. Other technique included brushing slip, dipping in slip, painting iron-oxidized pigment over white slip and painting the surface with slip, and then carving away the slip to produce a design.

Baekja is the Korean term for the white porcelain ware that was made throughout the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910). It was intended for use by the court and aristocracy.

Early Baekja is characterized by robust from, thick potting and opaque whiteness. Later pieces have a wide tonal range including graying white, bluish white, milky white and pure white. Typically, after a piece had been decorated, it was covered with transparent glaze and fired at around 1300 ℃. Although it was produced all over the country, the official kiln in Gwangju, Gyeonggi Province was famous for the high quality of its ceramics, which were used royal court.

2F_paintings & Calligraphy

In the room, Paintings and writings of the highest level from the Goryeo dynasty to Joseon dynasty are on display. Korean old paintings and writings remaining until today are mostly the works of the Joseon dynasty, so a large number of the works this room have been made after the 18th century oh the Joseon dynasty

Korean old paintings are characterized by their pursuit of the unartificial harmony and removal of exaggerations in comparison with Chinese and Japanese ones. In appreciating Korean old paintings, it is necessary to attend to the beauty and the gusto which they may evoke. It may help you to enjoy the works to consider whether the details of the paintings keep their balance, the mood of the picture is coherent, not desultory, and the elegant refinement is well expressed through the objects described by lines and space of the picture.

1F_Buddhist Art & Metalware

Metal works can be largely divided into two groups –archeological artifacts and general metal works. Archeological artifacts span from the Bronze age to the Three Kingdoms period, sampling weaponry, utensils and accessories. The bronze group including bronze bells, demonstrates aspects of prehistoric society and existence of metal industry. Sumptuous accessories such as gold objects and ornamented swords demonstrate the sovereign power and advanced technology in applied arts already in place as early as the Three Kingdoms period.

Elaborate mirrors in mother-of-pearl decoration and candlesticks decorated with quarts from the Unified Silla represent the ubiquity and excellence of Korea’s metal industry. Moreover, religious devotion and professional spirit of artisans are crystallized in the Buddhist art, and aesthetical triumph of the Buddhist culture at the time.

Buddhist Art is a unique synthesis of religious sentimental and visual art.

The term “Buddhist Art” covers a wide spectrum of the arts including architecture, sculpture, paintings, metal works, and calligraphy.

Buddhist Art began in Korea with the introduction of Buddhism in 372 A.D. during the three Kingdoms period (57 B.C.~668 A.D.). The art of Goguryeo, Baekje and Silla flourished around the Buddhist religion and saw many artful productions of stone Buddha and pagodas in granite.

During the Unified Silla period (668~935) and Goguryeo (935-1392), extensive exchanges with neighboring countries encouraged the international development of Buddhist Art. Numerous Buddhist paintings, sculptures, and metal works were created in superior quality. Further, the Seokgulam Temple and the Tripitaka Korean were completed and have now become world cultural heritage.