Jeju’s first public art museum is really something special.

The Jeju Museum of Art (JMA) is a favorite with locals and visitors. For one, it is close to the city, and the collection, facilities, and grounds, all make it a real gem.

Jeju may have a lot of great museums, but most are deep in the countryside and require a long car or bus ride. But the JMA is only a 10-minute drive directly south of Nohyeong Rotary in Shin Jeju. That’s just past Halla Arboretum along the 1139 Road.

JMA, which opened in 2009, boasts an absolutely beautiful view of Mt. Halla. The grounds have beautifully landscaped grass, trees, and gardens. There is also a walking path, benches, and a large circular area for events, which is called Baeknokdam, after Mt. Halla’s prominent crater peak.

20130523_132838 Jeju Museum of Art -- thmb

Conceptually, the 7,000-square-meter building is a beautiful example of multipurpose, integrated spaces. Facilities include a Special Exhibition Hall on the first floor, a Permanent Exhibition Hall on the second floor, as well as a Citizen’s Gallery and hall displaying the work of Jeju painter Chang Ree-suk (장리석). There’s also a cafe and outdoor garden.

For the latest information on exhibitions, click here.

In the Chang Ree-suk Exhibition Hall, which is a permanent space dedicated to this painter’s Jeju-inspired oeuvre, a selection titled “Landscape of Life” is on display until next February.

This artist, who is 98 years old, was born in Pyongyang in 1916. In his early years he studied fine art on his own and his work won a number of awards. But in the chaos of the start of the Korean War, he was able to join the South Korean navy and eventually settled settled on Jeju in the early 1950s.

He spent about four years on the island, and they were clearly influential to his life and art.

The main subjects of his Jeju period include rich, earth-toned paintings depicting seaside towns, Jeju ponies, sunsets over Mt. Halla, and, most prominently, Jeju’s haenyeo, the women divers.

According to an interview with one of the museum’s curators, Chang took quote “a nostalgic approach to rural life” and chose to depict the haenyeo as “sensual creatures in an exotic atmosphere.” Basically he was capturing the beauty and strength of the haenyeo.

A number of years ago he donated 110 of his works to Jeju province — his “second home” as he put it. The province tapped JMA to be the collection’s permanent home.

The Jeju Museum of Art is open from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. from July to September, and 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. for the rest of the year. It’s closed on Mondays, and the New Year and Chuseok holidays. Admission is 1,000 won for adults, 500 won for youths, and 300 won for kids.

It is also part of the national initiative called “Culture Day” which started in January of this year. Every last Wednesday of the month, museums and galleries around the nation are open free of charge.

And finally, on the last Sunday of the month, the museum screens a film in the auditorium. The theme is generally family friendly.  This month (Sept. 28) the film is “Like Stars on Earth” (2007).

For more information, the museum does have a basic Web site in English, though the Korean site is more up-to-date.

This is a reworked article, written by the author, which first appeared on KCTV English News. — Ed.

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