Shamans depicted walking on knives, fairies shown riding on clouds, kings astride dragon mounts: some find such pictures unsettling, some charming. Pursued by collectors, venerated as the seats of gods, Korean shaman paintings are all of these things. Laurel Kendall, Jongsung Yang, and Yul Soo Yoon explore what it is that makes these works magical or sacred-more than "just paintings." What does it mean for a picture to carry the trace of a god? Once animated and revered, can it ever be a mere painting again? How have shaman paintings been revalued as art? Do artfulness and magic ever intersect? Is the market value of a painting influenced by whether or not it was once a sacred object? Navigating the journey shaman paintings make from painters' studios to shaman shrines to private collections and museums, the three authors deftly negotiate the borderland between scholarly interests in the production and consumption of material religion and the consumption and circulation of art. Illustrated with sixty images, the book offers a new vantage point on "the social life of things." This is not the story of a collecting West and a disposing rest: The primary collectors and commentators on Korean shaman paintings are South Koreans re-imagining their own past in light of their own modernist sensibility. It is a tale that must be told together with the recent history of South Korea and an awareness of the problematic question of how the paintings are understood by different South Korean actors-most particularly the shamans and collectors who share a common language and sometimes meet face-to-face.
God Pictures in Korean Contexts
University of Hawaii Press
The Ownership and Meaning of Shaman Paintings