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A stroll through the land of fortune

Nov 21. 2018
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The origins of traditional South Korean gold leaf techniques are reinterpreted in a contemporary style

IT HAS ITS roots in holistic beauty and Asian wisdom but world-renowned South Korean skincare brand Sulwhasoo is also a firm believer in art and has chosen to mark the opening of its new Amorepacific headquarters in Yongsan, Seoul by hosting two art exhibitions – “2018 Sulwha Culture Exhibition: Fortune Land and Gold Leaf” and “Beyond Folding Screens”.

Cultivating balanced beauty both inside and out, Sulwhasoo is named for the allure of winter blossoms springing from the snow. Following the creation of the ABC Ginseng Cream in 1966, Sulwhasoo was set up as a holistic beauty brand based on Asian medicinal herbs and particularly Korean’s famous ginseng root, which has been recognised for its exceptional qualities since the Goryeo Dynasty (918-1932). Today, the brand is globally promoted and a favourite with women in pursuit of beauty products that use only natural ingredients 

Sulwhasoo’s most popular formula is known as the Jaum balancing complex, an optimal blend of five ingredients carefully selected from 3,000 medicinal herbs and ginseng that restores skin balance easily lost with age. 

Its scientific team studies not just the ginseng root but also the largely ignored leaves, stems, flowers and berries, combining them into the anti-ageing Concentrated Ginseng line. This includes the newly released Concentrated Ginseng Renewing Serum, which blends the precious ingredients into an oil and packs it into soft capsules.

The new headquarters building of Amorepacific was designed by the acclaimed British architect David Chipperfield and accommodates the Amorepacific Museum of Art (APMA), which was established in 1979 as the Pacific Museum and given its present name in 2009.

APMA is engaged in a wide range of art and cultural related activities, both traditional and contemporary. Its first exhibition showcased the private collection of the founder and former chairman and chief executive, Suh Sungwhan, an art devotee.

At the new Amorepacific headquarters in Yongsan, galleries on the basement level and the atrium, a space stretching from the first to the third floors, are designed as spaces to communicate with the local community through culture. Entering the lobby, the visitor is greeted by a museum shop, the exhibition space “APMA Cabinet”, as well as the exhibition catalogue library, the Amorepacific Library of Art Project (apLAP). Learning spaces and the main auditorium are on the second floor and the exhibition spaces expand into the outside garden and roof garden, where the works of world-renowned artists, such as Olafur Eliasson and Leo Villareal, are displayed. Also on show is the work of contemporary electronic artist Rafael Lozano-Hemmer.

The exhibition “Fortune Land – Gold Leaf”, which runs until December 14, underlines the company’s commitment to highlighting the beauty and dignity of traditional Korea culture and ensuring this is maintained and continued. The Sulwha Cultural Exhibition is an effort to preserve the nation’s rich heritage and bring the younger generations closer to traditions by presenting new artworks by 12 contemporary artists using the Korean traditional gold leaf technique. There are also three masterpieces by traditional gold leaf masters. In South Korea, gold is a symbol of eternity, beauty and authority. 

This diverse reinterpretation of the aesthetic sense of traditional gold leaf art in a modern way is based on the theme “amusement part” representing the harmony of old and new. 

Kim Deok-hwan’s “Kum Bak Yeon”, which presents the hong wonsam or red ceremonial robe, is one of the highlights. The hong wonsam was a ceremonial costume of women during the late Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910), and the wonsam with gold-leaf patterns was made exclusively for royalty. The red wonsam was the ceremonial robe worn by the queen and was further dignified by adding phoenix designs with pure gold and gold-leaf dragon insignias. “Myeonsa” or the royal veil by Kim Ki-ho and Park Soo-young displays the square-shape fabrics used to cover the entire body from head to toe. They were used as part of the ceremonial costume for queens and royal concubines during Joseon Dynasty and were decorated with diverse gold-leaf patterns.

The contemporary carousel “Time is Gold is Time” created by Soundance, Seo Dong-ju and Lee Hyun-tae, symbolises the amusement park by using a typical ride of the West to express Eastern sentiment through Korean traditional gold-leaf patterns. Combined with waltz-like background music, the movement of the carousel suggests the circular nature of time and the eternity of gold.

Designer Lee Seo-jeong of high-end brand C-Zann E, reinterprets traditional gold leaf in a contemporary way by using Korean ramie fabric to emphasise its elegance. The vest draws on the traditional men’s ramie summer jacket, which can be worn in many ways, while the dress is inspired by the back hem of the traditional gentleman’s robe, made with the intention to bless those who wear them.

Moving to the basement gallery, the visitor can admire “Beyond Folding Screens”, a large-scale exhibition featuring 76 folding screens, from both the Joseon period and Korea’s modern era. The exhibition, which runs until December 23, shines the spotlight on this traditional form of art that was popular in Asia in the 19th and 20th centuries. The screens, which were used to decorate various court ceremonies, banquets and rituals, vary in size; many are large works.

The works on display, produced by court painters as well as individuals, come from the museum’s collection and private collectors as well as other institutions. A highlight is the famous Joseon Dynasty 8-panel folding screen of “The Sun, Moon and Five Peaks”, which was used as an emblem of royal authority and placed behind the king’s throne.

Another folding screen depicts a panoramic scene of Pyongyang and a procession by the governor of Pyongan Province, which is registered as Seoul Cultural Heritage item No. 176, while a 10-panel folding painting on silk screen, “Taoist Immortals Crossing the Sea,” belongs to the Amore Pacific Museum of Art.



- The 2018 Sulwha Culture Exhibition can be viewed until December 14. Advance reservation is required. Entrance bands and exhibition maps will be distributed upon registration at reception. Admission is free. For details visit

- The Beyond Folding Screen exhibition runs until December 23. Entrance is 12,000 won (Bt350). The museum is open Tuesday to Sunday from 10am to 6pm. For details visit

- The museum offers a smartphone app called APMA Visual Guide, which can be downloaded from an app store for better understanding. By entering the verification code, which is on the admission ticket, visitors can hear an audio guide in Korean or English. 

- Income from purchases of commodities will go supporting the preservation of cultural assets.


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