The special exhibition Splendor and Serenity: Korean Ceramics from the Honolulu Museum of Art will be on view August 13 to November 8, 2015, and the museum will hold a month of events celebrating Korean art and culture in September, sponsored by the Korea Foundation. (Pictured above are two works that will be in the exhibition.) As Honolulu turns its attention to the dynamic contributions Korea has made to world culture, this is also a good opportunity for us to reflect on the individuals who have helped to shape the museum’s programs of Korean art over the years.

Private collectors play an important role in furthering the museum’s mission to foster a greater awareness of and appreciation for the world’s artistic legacies, and in enabling the museum to make available to our audience the finest examples of art. Hawai‘i has a long history of interaction with Korea, and the Korean government’s first official promotion of Korean immigration was to Hawai‘i at the start of the 2oth century. Similarly, Korean art and culture featured prominently in the early days of the museum, and we are honored to have the first gallery in an American museum specifically dedicated to Korean art, which was established in the same year the museum opened to the public, 1927.

Among the collectors that have helped to promote Korean art and culture at the museum is Dr. Chester Chang. A renowned pilot, Dr. Chang has played a leadership role in the Federal Aviation Administration, garnering him official recognition from the President of the United States and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for his service as Chief of FAA Mission to that country from 1987 to 1992. Dr. Chang has assembled one of the finest collections of Korean art in the United States, while his philanthropy has extended to numerous museums and cultural institutions in the U.S. and Korea.

In Honolulu, Dr. Chang’s loans have augmented the museum’s world-class collection of Korean ceramics with several important examples of screen painting from the late Joseon to early modern periods, including screens by the literati artists Chae Yong-shin (1848-1941) and Suh Byong-oh (1862-1933), as well as charming folk works such as Fish and Birds and Scholar’s Objects and Stylized Chinese Characters.

Moon Jar
Joseon dynasty, 18th century
Gift of the Estate of Wilma Fitts, 1994 (7733.1)

Plum Blossom Vase (Maebyong) with Crane and Cloud Design
Goryeo dynasty, 12th century
Stoneware with celadon glaze, black and white slip inlay
Gift of Anna Rice Cooke, 1927 (116)

Shawn Eichman is the curator of Asian art at the Honolulu Museum of Art.