Although the Weisman Art Museum (WAM) is best-known for its works in American Modernism, there are several unique features of the permanent collection that make WAM a special treasure. One of my favorites is the Edward Reynolds Wright Collection of traditional Korean furniture, the largest collection outside of Asia. Edward Reynolds Wright went to Seoul, South Korea, in 1967 to become the head of the Korean-American Educational (Fullbright) Commission. During the 11 years Wright lived in South Korea, he amassed…
In 1967, when Edward Wright went to Seoul to become head of the Korean-American Educational (Fulbright) Commission, the Korean war had been over for a mere fourteen years. During that war, which lasted from 1950 to 1953, millions of civilians died and the fighting effectively destroyed most cities in North and South Korea. In the first year of the war alone, the capital, Seoul, changed hands four times. The disruption of civilian life meant that thousands of refugees roamed the country. Destitute migrants headed for cities, and the cities, especially Seoul, experienced population explosions.
Edward Wright, a political scientist by trade, soon developed a love for Korea culture and arts and became an avid collector of traditional Korean furniture. Because of the massive dislocation and poverty of Korean families, there was plenty of good furniture for sale. Wright put together, in the eleven years he lived in Korea, a collection that could not be assembled today. He was able to add a number of items from North Korea that are rarely available in the market now, including ceramics, painted screens and scrolls, and everyday household items, as well as furniture.
When Wright died in 1988 he left his collection as a bequest to the University of Minnesota. Although he was not an alumnus, he formed a close association with former University political science professor and provost Roger Benjamin, who introduced him to the museum.
This exhibition is made possible by a generous grant from the Korea Foundation.