Leeum, Samsung Museum of Art

60-16 Itaewon-ro 55-gil, Hannam-dong, Yongsan-gu, Seoul, South Korea

Opened in 2004, the Leeum, Samsung Museum of Art seeks to bridge the past, present, and future of art. The sleek complex consists of two wings, one dedicated to traditional Korean works and the other to international contemporary art. The traditional wing is shaped like a reverse cone, with a spiraling walkway that winds through galleries of ancient paintings, calligraphy, and crafts. In stark contrast, the glass-and-steel contemporary wing was built without supporting posts, encouraging viewers to move freely among distinctive works by Basquiat, Olafur Eliasson, and Takashi Murakami. The experience continues outside on the parking lot deck, where there is a polished sculpture garden.

More Recommendations

A place for art

Hidden in the hills of Namsan is an architectural gem that is the Leeum Samsung Art Museum. On my visit, I saw an impressive collection of Korean ceramics as well as installations from Danish-Icelandic artist Olafur Eliasson. The three main buildings — each designed by star architects Rem KoolHaas, Mario Botta and Jean Nouvel — invite visitors to explore the spacial relationship between architecture and art objects. I loved spending time on the art terrace, where the scenes of Seoul are reflected in the monumental steel sculptures by Anish Kapoor.

Leeum, Samsung Museum of Art, Seoul, South Korea.

A great way to spend an afternoon in Seoul: a good book and the genius of sculptor Louise Bourgeois at the Leeum Museum. A gentleman relaxes on ‘Eye Benches,’ while ‘Maman’ stands guard. It’s in Itaewon that Samsung planted the Leeum Contemporary Art Museum to great furor, though some installations – including Damien Hirsh’s The Dance of Death - seem timid or introductory at best. A visit to the Leeum Museum confirms that Seoul is as dedicated to the contemporary art movements of the future as it is mindful of its rich classical artistic heritage, while a tour of the eclectic shops and boutiques that line the streets of Itaewon provide an ideal starting point for people who hope to experience the city’s vibrant art scene. Nearby Paik Hae Young Gallery (appointment necessary) provides a more succinct glimpse into the contemporary art scene and is a great place to rub elbows with the city’s artistic elite, but the area’s real attraction lay in the litany of cafes, lounges and restaurants that cluster around the iconic Hamilton Hotel, a fine place to relax in its own right, sporting a rooftop pool and full-time party atmosphere.

Information on this page, including website, location, and opening hours, is subject to have changed since this page was last published. If you would like to report anything that’s inaccurate, let us know at notification@afar.com.

Nearby highlights
Sign up for our newsletter
Join more than a million of the world’s best travelers. Subscribe to the Daily Wander newsletter.
More From AFAR