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Honolulu Art Museum Discovers Priceless Relic in Basement

Honolulu Art Museum Discovers Priceless Relic in Basement

HONOLULU - The Honolulu Museum of Art has discovered two paintings from late 16th-century Korea in its collection, including one that's been called an "earth-shattering" find.

"This is like discovering a lost Vermeer," said Shawn Eichman, curator of Asian art at the museum, referring to the Dutch master, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser (http://bit.ly/1mwUgbk) reported.

The paintings are from the collection of the late Richard Lane, an art collector and dealer. Lane, who lived in Japan for about 50 years, helped catalog the museum's James Michener collection of Japanese prints. He left his personal library to the museum when he died in 2002.

When museum officials went to Japan to claim the materials, they came across his separate personal collection. It contained some 20,000 items, including more than 3,000 paintings, books made from woodblocks, and other artifacts. The museum acquired the entire collection for about $26,000 in 2003, but without a catalog, it was unclear what it contained.

Asian art experts have been studying the pieces over the past decade.

Many paintings in the collection were initially identified as "Chinese, question mark; Japanese, question mark; Korean, question mark."

Korean paintings from the late 16th century are difficult to identify in part because so few survived Japanese invasions which started in 1592 and lasted until 1596.

In January, a group of Korean experts - including the world's leading expert on Korean art, Chung Woo-Thak of Dongguk University - came to Hawaii after initially studying some photos the museum had sent.

One of the last paintings they looked at depicted scholars meeting in a small pavilion, boats on a calm lake and rocky, pillar-like mountains. A calligraphy inscription dated the work to 1586. The painting immediately piqued their interest.

The painting is important because it is dated just a few years before the Japanese invasions and because it depicts a meeting of scholars, a particular genre of painting, Eichman said. The inscription was by a famous Korean poet, who is believed to be one of the participants in the meeting.

The other painting was put on display at the museum about three weeks ago. It depicts the Chinese philosopher and cosmologist Zhou Dunyi, a standard subject of the day, in contemplation beside a small pool with lily pads. It's not as badly deteriorated as the painting of the scholars and was deemed suitable for exhibition.

Museum officials expect to receive grant money to send the painting of the scholars to South Korea for conservation. Eichman expects it will have a grand unveiling there before it's returned to Hawaii.

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G..K.. February 26 2014 at 10:02 AM

To mphseason !! Thank you and Thank you many more times for your comment !!

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mphseason February 26 2014 at 9:27 AM


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1 reply
Lilly mphseason February 26 2014 at 11:00 AM


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Sterling Lieb February 26 2014 at 6:01 AM

Very enjoyable article. How nice to know that treasures do survive the efforts of men, who seek to destroy other cultures and peoples. 'May Tibet rise from the ashes of Chinese aggression.' The human spirit, like the pen and the brush of the artist really are mightier than the sword. Hopefully the paintings will be restored to South Korea in a kind gesture of love from America.

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1 reply
djtayfam Sterling Lieb February 26 2014 at 8:41 AM

Amen... I'm looking forward to seeing something besides EUROPEAN Art.. This should be interesting.!!

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Ashford February 26 2014 at 2:18 PM


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3 replies
acqcon February 26 2014 at 8:36 AM

Hmmm! I was hoping they'd found Obama's original birth certificate.

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4 replies
the london co February 26 2014 at 3:50 PM

think about all the art -books-religious artifacts of Americas that made there way to Europe why the Spanish arrived and took it back to Spain-i mean everything in the Vatican- banks vaults i mean surly in this day and age they could put them on the internet for everyone to see i mean i'm sure artists and such didn't paint with them being stuffed in a vault rather be seen
think about all the artifacts bought back during the crusades-i mean i bet one of the best was the German armies because Hitler collected all the occult stuff but i guess after the war that was taken by the allies.

i mean it's interesting that our local airport was one of 4 experimental air force bases built because there were German u boats off the coast of south Florida in 1940's i mean they were there for a reason

i mean surly the church should take the initiative and invite us all into the vaults so we can see the art that would reflect history

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5 replies
Maria Murray February 26 2014 at 4:30 PM

What a wonderful find. I just hope It is NEVER returned to N.Korea until they elect a new leader.!! I'd hate to see those pieces go t
he way of his UNCLE.

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me817 February 26 2014 at 8:35 PM

"Earth Shattering" ? ??? Are you absolutely sure it's that momentous a discovery ? Or do the writers and editors make up what is exactly "earth shattering" ??? I guess "literary license" no longer has any boundaries.

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bcrnbs2 February 26 2014 at 9:56 PM

sorry, i have no apprication for the arts. some of these so called great painting look to me like a three year old drew thm.. besides its just a rendering of someone thoughs on a piece of paper.. the fact some painting lasted over hundred s of years only leads to the fact they some value because they are a link to the past.. agreed some painting are very well painting and depicts individuals or objects, they are still, just a drawing. and i place little value on that. i have an indian freind who paints very well. he painted a picture of my indian wife on her pinto pony with head dress and natural scanty clan clothes, with a bow in one hand looking out on a battle field of dead warrirs... of course we dalled it warrior princess's. kinda gives you a really warm and passion feeling to gase upon feeling of lust and wanting.... not that pics is valuable to me.

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2 replies
Davidbenal33 bcrnbs2 February 26 2014 at 10:08 PM

To claim that art is just a piece of thoughts on paper without understanding the effort and background of anything even related to historical art is like claiming the Constitution is just an old piece of paper or even claiming that a moving and spiritually-filled Sunday sermon are just a bunch of spoken words.
Many people go to Paris, but don't see PAR-EE'

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pikahereandthere bcrnbs2 February 27 2014 at 11:21 AM

apparently you have no appreciation for spelling or grammar either.

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rowleyjen62 February 26 2014 at 10:08 PM

dat shirt doe

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