London Korean Links

Covering things Korean in London and beyond since 2006

Event report: the Anglo Korean Society visit to the V+A


Many thanks to Sylvia Park for organising a fun evening of food and learning on 20 September, and of course to Beth McKillop, curator of the V&A’s Asian collection, for guiding the assembled company through the V&A’s Korean exhibits.

funerary urn

The evening started in the Samsung gallery at the V&A, in front of the stoneware from the three kingdoms and unified Silla periods. Beth noted that the potters wheel had been introduced into Korea from China very early in the first millennium CE, long before the technology was discovered in the west. We paused in front of a unified Silla period funerary urn (above), before moving on to the Koryo dynasty exhibits.

Beth talked about the painting and inlaying technique with Koryo dynasty porcelain, which has the familiar celadon colour. She highlighted the successful red colouring on one vase (only just visible in my poor snap above left), and we enjoyed the simple shape of the pear-shaped plum vase (centre). There was also a fun pot shaped like a bamboo shoot (right).

Rectangular bottle

We passed along to view the Choseon dynasty exhibits (example: the beautifully-decorated rectangular bottle shown above), showing the Korean preference for plain white while the vulgar Qing dynasty next door in China were enjoying more colourful pots. Beth noted the gaps in the collection — particularly in respect of early Choseon period ceramics. More donations welcome.

Vase meditation - Dream IV

Tucked away at the end of the gallery at the bottom of the stairs, and very easily missed, is a small collection of contemporary Korean ceramics: reinvented Buncheon ware (example above), and a spectacularly wonky vase (below). I’d missed these display cases in my previous visits and was glad to have these works pointed out.

contemporary jar

We viewed some of the exhibits on the other side of the gallery: the beautiful inlaid boxes; the ox-horn chest, and the badges of office.

With some time to spare before dinner, Beth took the company, via a view of the huge Chihuly chandelier in the V&A’s foyer, into the contemporary glass gallery and thence to the new Jameel gallery of Islamic art — emphasising the V&A’s continuing efforts to collect works of importance.

Thence to Bibimbup in Earl’s Court Road where we fitted snugly into the downstairs room. The wine, soju and conversation flowed, and new friendships were made.

More photographs on LKL’s Flicker account here.

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