The Korean art gallery at the Metropolitan Museum is a trim, tall, well-proportioned box of light. But it’s just one room, and a smallish one at that, reflecting the museum’s modest holdings in art from this region and the still scant attention paid to it by Western scholars.
So no surprise that the expansive-sounding exhibition called “Art of the Korean Renaissance, 1400-1600” is, by Met standards, a small thing too, with four dozen objects. Most of them — ceramic jars, lacquer boxes, scroll paintings — are compact enough to be stashed in a closet.
What the show lacks in grandeur, though, it makes up in fineness, and in rarity. All of the art dates from a period of cultural efflorescence and innovation in Korea. Experimental art was on the boil; utopian ideas were in the air. Yet much of what was produced then was lost in the series of invasions and occupations that began at the end of the 16th century.