The current exhibit, In Grand Style: Celebrations in Korean Art During the Joseon Dynasty at the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco, explores the cultural significance of celebrations during Korea’s Joseon dynasty (1392–1910). During this period, festivities such as birthdays, weddings, and funerals were celebrated lavishly and in elaborate, visually colorful ceremonies. The legacy of this dynasty—among the world’s longest—continues to resonate in Korean culture today. In Grand Style features close to 110 exquisite objects revealing the cultural and political significance of these celebrations.
Although women were not eligible to serve as the heads of the ruling dynasty, this exhibit reflects the power of women of the royal court in the 19th century in Korea. The stunning images of what we refer to now as “tiger ladies” showcase the important role and the influence of women in their participation and orchestration of the grand celebrations of the elite.
Living in the heart of Silicon Valley, one of the regions of California most rich in diverse cultures, ceremonies, celebrations and traditions, I was always fascinated and in awe of the grandeur of ethnic weddings. In the hectic world of cell phones, iPads, and the Internet, the more we rapidly advance to the new high-tech discoveries, the more some of us yearn for the high-touch.
Well, the opportunity presented itself in conjunction with the In Grand Style exhibit, as I was invited to join close to 300 guests to observe a young couple’s reenactment of their family’s ancient custom of a traditional Korean wedding ceremony at the Asian Art Museum. Although Steven and Esther Lee were married a year ago at San Francisco’s City Hall in a civil ceremony, their desire to recreate the wedding ceremony in the ancient tradition was truly remarkable and a very personal treasured memory that they will be able to share with their children.
As the colorful wedding procession found its way from San Francisco’s City Hall to the Asian Art Museum, located across from City Hall, I was swept away by the tranquility of the ancient customs, which were so well showcased by the museum. Their presentation of the reenactment of the traditional Korean wedding in some way connected the past with the present. I was also inspired to repeat my visit to the In Grand Style exhibit and once again enjoy my journey through the ancient world during the Joseon Dynasty and its elite lifestyle of celebrations.
“With In Grand Style: Celebrations in Korean Art During the Joseon Dynasty we celebrate the rich pageantry of the Joseon dynasty,” said Jay Xu, director of the Asian Art Museum. “It is fitting that we should do so in our 10th year in the museum’s Civic Center location as we celebrate the marvelous arts of Korea, and ultimately the art of celebration itself, through this exhibition focusing on the succeeding Joseon dynasty.”
For information on Asian Art Museum’s exhibits and special events visit www.asianart.org or call 415-581-3500. This exhibit runs through January 12, 2014. Photos by Sam Broydo.
Lina Broydo immigrated from Russia, then the Soviet Union, to Israel where she was educated and got married. After working at the University in Birmingham, England she and her husband immigrated to the United States. She lives in Los Altos Hills, CA and writes about travel, art, style, entertainment, and sports. She hardly cooks or bakes, not the best of «balabostas» her beloved beautiful Mom, Dina, was hoping for. Therefore, she makes reservations and enjoys dining out.
By Lina Broydo