The Freer’s Korean gallery reopens with an exhibition embodying the evolution of the distinctive Korean ceramic decoration known as sanggam. Originally, sanggam involved inlaying white and black pigments into stamped or carved motifs to create images of cranes, clouds, ducks, lotuses, and willows that appear to float within a limpid green glaze. This technique appeared in Korea by the mid-twelfth century; it would adorn tableware and ritual vessels used by the court and nobility for two centuries. Once porcelain replaced celadon as the elite ceramic, however, the appearance of inlaid decoration changed radically. White pigment, applied in dense patterns to cover everyday bowls and dishes, approximated the snowy appearance of porcelain.
The National Museum of Korea has provided generous financial and curatorial support for this installation of the Freer Gallery’s Korean collection. A new location within the museum positions the Korean gallery adjacent to an exhibition of Chinese ceramics of the tenth through thirteenth century and, eventually, to galleries of Chinese arts of the Song through Qing dynasty (tenth through nineteenth century).