South Korean pop culture has taken the world by storm in recent years. Members of the girl group Blackpink and boy band BTS have snatched up top luxury endorsement deals, while movies like “Parasite” and TV series like “Kingdom” and “Squid Game” have seized as much attention as blockbuster Hollywood productions.
A new exhibition at London’s Victoria and Albert Museum, running from Sept. 24 to June 25, 2023, promises a thorough inspection of aspects of K-mania, including K-pop costumes, K-drama props and posters alongside photography, sculpture, fashion, video, and pop culture ephemera, from its early origins in the late 1990s to its place on the global stage today.
Titled “Hallyu! The Korean Wave,” the show will present around 200 objects across four sections. The term Hallyu, meaning Korean wave in English, was first used in the early ’90s after South Korea entered into diplomatic relations with China in 1992.
Highlights for movie fans include an immersive re-creation of Parasite’s bathroom set, and a range of costumes and props seen in K-drama film, and music, including from the hit Netflix series “Squid Game.”
Fashion enthusiasts will be able to enjoy around 20 fashion looks by brands like Kye, D-Antidote, Blindness, Ji Won Choi, Darcycom, Tchai Kim, Miss Sohee, and Minju Kim, and a Kim Seo Ryong overcoat as seen on Jin from BTS in its Summer Package 2019.
Outfits worn by different generations of K-pop idols will also be a big draw for visitors, such as the pink suit jacket PSY wore in his viral 2012 hit “Gangnam Style;” Aespa’s original iridescent outfits from the music video “Next Level,” and British punk fashion-inspired ensembles worn by four members of Ateez in the music video “Firework.”
There will also be a three-meter-high sculpture of G-Dragon by Gwon Osang, and new looks created by K-pop style and visual director Geeeun, who has styled the likes of Blackpink and Bigbang, and style director Balko, who has worked with BTS and NCT.
The exhibition, supported by the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism of the Republic of Korea and luxury automobile manufacturer Genesis, will also present artworks from the likes of Nam June Paik, Ham Kyungah, and Gwon Osang, as well as early examples of advertising and branding, including an original poster from the Seoul Olympics, and the first Korean branded cosmetic from the 1910s.
Rosalie Kim, curator of the exhibition, said Hallyu is worth celebrating because it has helped South Korea transform its image from “one devastated by the Korean War to that of a leading cultural powerhouse in the era of social media and digital culture.”
Since collecting Korean art and design in 1888, V&A now holds one of the largest collections of contemporary Korean craft and design outside South Korea. It opened London’s first permanent gallery devoted to Korean arts in 1992.
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