In February there were a lot of art on display in Korea that I wanted to see. However the only one I managed was visiting the Alphonse Mucha exhibit at the newly opened My Art Museum. It was actually the museums first showing and I was impressed they decided to kick it off with Alphonse Mucha.
Alphonse Mucha is a Czech artist probably most well known for his Art Nouveau style even though he wasn’t ever comfortable with being associated with the style. He gained in popularity in Paris when Sarah Bernhardt, a famous actress of the time and commissioned him to make a promotional poster for an upcoming show. The intricate detail and beauty of the poster, “Gismonda” gained so much interest that this one commission is attributed to kick starting his career. People loved them so much they’d steal the posters off the street or would try to buy them off of the poster hangers. It pleased Sarah Bernhardt so much she made a contract with him for 5 years where he designed costumes and sets and more promotional material for her. It also started his career in advertisements.
One of the things I loved about the exhibit other than seeing Mucha’s work in person and a closer look at the fine details was the different takes of similar pieces of work side by side.
The museum it’s self was well put together, however I did make a big mistake. The first room, is big on it’s own, but I happened to step in in the midst of a tour. This meant there was no space until the guide would move to another side of the room to talk about a different section of art. And then a little big of space would open as everyone in the room turned for me to slip through to the next section. It meant I was looking at the same piece for a very long time, stuck in a corner and eventually I just had to move onto the next section until the tour moved there and I could back track. So if you visit the My Art Museum and don’t speak Korean or don’t want to be a part of the tour then find out when the tours are and make sure you’re not going in at the same time one is running. I’m very lucky I’m not claustrophobic. It was bad enough being in a corner surrounded by people while wearing a coat and a mask.
But of course as soon as I passed the tour and was able to get past the first room the rest of the exhibit was very enjoyable. It was cool to see all the different sets, his flower series, his season series, moon series and so many more. I also really enjoyed the moments where things were just a bit different.
They even had some of Alphonse Mucha’s work that contributed to his magnum opus, The Slavic Epic. After spending some time in Paris, and the USA , Alphonse Mucha tried to keep some of his culture in his art, from local flora to traditional clothes. But what he really wanted to do was illustrate the history and mythology of the Czech and other Slavic people. A Chicago tycoon, Charles Richard Crane, ended up sponsoring the project which allowed Alphonse Mucha to do what he wanted with his masterpiece, to travel to the regions and consult with historians and eventually he set up his studio in a part of the Zbiroh castle in the Czech Republic in 1910. The series took 18 years and once finished he gifted it to the city of Prague on the anniversary of their independence. There are 11 pieces in the collection which range in size, some of the biggest being 8.10 x 6.10 meters. (26.6 x 20 feet). Sadly none of these were on display at the exhibit, but given some of their size and importance I understand it.
Alphonse Mucha passed away in 1939 at the age of 78 after the German army invaded Prague. Being a well known nationalist and freemason he was captured and interrogated, he was released in poor health and shortly died before World War II official began. Despite a banning of public gatherings many showed up for his burial in the Vyšehrad Cemetery.
At the exit of the exhibit they had a small gift shop full of things with recreations of Alphonse Mucha’s pieces. Since I was leaving soon and already shipped as many packages as I felt comfortable sending home I didn’t get anything. But I did take a moment to be totally awed by a local artists recreation of the flower crowns that are a staple Alphonse Mucha’s work.
Tickets for the exhibit were 15,000 won. It composed of 230 of Alphonse Mucha’s pieces broken up into 5 sections about his life. It ran in partnership with the Czech Center and Embassy of the Czech Republic from October 24 ,2019 until April 5, 2020. Exhibit hours are from Tuesday- Sunday’s from 10am until 8pm with last admission at 7pm. You can find out more about what’s showing now and their special events here. Please note to turn down your volume before clicking on the link as there is a video that automatically plays at the bottom of the page for their current exhibit. Or you can check out their Instagram here. For whatever art they are currently hosting there is also usually a corresponding kids art class via the think museum.
The museum is a little confusing to find, it’s a short walk from Coex mall. It’s located in the basement of the Textile Center Building a short walk from Samseong station exit 4. The easiest, most direct way to get there is the stairs next to the Starbucks. In the main building there are also elevators you can take down. But always make sure you are taking the correct elevator down to B1 because it is a business building and some elevators may only go to certain floors. If you get lost ask for My Art Museum, the name is essentially the same in Korean, 마이아트뮤지엄.