The Leetum: three new museums in Seoul

When I visited Seoul last spring, I stopped by a series of three new museums, one containing traditional Korean art and sculpture, another with modern experimental work, and the third a museum that engages the community to build and create unique art themselves.┬áThe Lee family (of Samsung fame) renamed the place as the “Leetum.” Located in the middle of the Seoul neighborhood that is home to Samsung’s founding family, the series of museums are embedded into the hillside next to residences.

Architects Rem Koolhaas, Mario Botta, and Jean Nouvel each designed one museum, joined with a central reception building by Botta. It is beautifully crafted architecture. The Botta museum is a beautiful collection of traditional Korean art, both pottery and paintings. The casework is magnificent, and the collection is very sensitively curated with beautiful colors often unseen in Asian museums. The gift shop has products designed by the students at SADI (Samsung Art & Design Institute).

The exterior installation of the spiders is a great organic series of pieces contrasting with the crisp architecture. You feel like you’re encountering the human-exterminating Martian vessels from the War of the Worlds as you pass the spiders on the deck next to the entrance. From there you enter the lobby designed by Mario Botta.

The Rem Koolhaas building is very raw and open (as is his style), while the Nouvel building is colder than the other work of his I’ve seen. The art matches the building design.

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