After loan extended by COVID-19, South Korea returns art masterpieces to Israel

Israel Museum’s Impressionist and post-Impressionist art was supposed to come home from Hangaram Art Museum in May, and then again in August. It’s finally made it

Jessica Steinberg covers the Sabra scene from south to north and back to the center.

Renoir, Pissarro, Gauguin, and Monet welcomed back to the Museum

🛬 🖼️ Korean Air flight KE9957 landed at Ben Gurion Airport last week, carrying some priceless cargo: 106 masterpieces by greats artists including Renoir, Pissarro, Gauguin, and Monet, returning home to the Israel Museum after an unexpectedly prolonged stay in South Korea. These priceless Impressionist and Post-Impressionist artworks were on loan for almost a year at the Hangaram Art Museum at the Seoul Art Center. ⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣The Israel Museum regularly lends works – and entire exhibitions – to institutions around the world, but as we all know, nothing is “regular” about 2020, and this was no exception; the traveling exhibition faced lockdowns, airport closures, social distancing laws, and other challenges unique to this time. ⁣⁣⁣⁣This loan coincided with the beginning of the coronavirus outbreak in South Korea, meaning that the exhibition drew smaller-than-expected crowds. Then in late May, after the exhibition was dismantled and the works prepped for their flight back home, the Israel Museum received an unusual request: the Hangaram Museum sought to reassemble and reopen the exhibition for an additional two months. The request was granted and the second “installment” was a resounding success, with tens of thousands of visitors viewing these art treasures. ⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣After the exhibition finished its successful second run on August 19 – cut short due to rising numbers of Covid 19 cases in Seoul – it was dismantled once again and prepared for the return journey. But the cancellation of flights due to lockdowns in both Israel and Korea meant yet another delay, and so the works sat, crated and ready to go.⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣These masterpieces were finally welcomed back to the Museum this week. The video below captures highlights of this happy reunion. We are grateful to the many people who made this complex and important operation a success. ⁣From the Israel Museum: Sivan Eran-Levian, Head of Traveling Exhibitions; Chandi Medad, Traveling Exhibitions Coordinator; Henk van Doornik, Head of Shipping and Loans; Tal Markovich Elispur, PMO, Shipping and Loans; Oded Rahamim, Chief Security and Contingency Officer; Gil Eitan, Deputy Head of Security; Yaniv Cohen, Head of Technical Services; Daniel Galperin , PMO, Fine Arts Wing; Sharon Tager, Head of Conservation; Dr. Adina Kamien, Senior Curator, Department of Modern Art; Efrat Aharon, Associate Curator, Department of Modern Art; Liat Benzgida , Project Manager of Exhibition Installation and Collection Management; and Dalia Angel, Budget and Insurance Officer… and from Transclal Fine Arts Ltd.: @Yoram.margalit.3 , CEO; Orna Gez, Exhibition Manager; Eli Tedgi, Operations Manager; and; Lea Shusha, Freight Forwarding. ⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣

Posted by Israel Museum, Jerusalem on Thursday, November 19, 2020

In the world of priceless artwork, as with all items, what gets lent must get returned. But the coronavirus has wrought some unusual situations, including the prolonged loan of 106 valuable artworks from the Israel Museum to the Hangaram Art Museum in South Korea.

The masterpieces, including work by Renoir, Pissarro, Gauguin, and Monet, were returned last week, after being away for nearly a year.

The loan coincided with the beginning of the coronavirus outbreak in South Korea, which meant the initial exhibition drew smaller crowds.

After the exhibit was dismantled in late May and the works were readied for the flight back home, the Hangaram Museum requested an extension on the loan for another two months, in order to show the Impressionist and post-Impressionist artworks to larger crowds.

The exhibition finished its second, successful run on August 19, with tens of thousands of visitors viewing the art treasures. But flights were then canceled due to second lockdowns in Israel and Korea.

“The coronavirus just caught us with these pieces in Korea,” said Sivan Eran-Levian, head of Traveling Exhibitions at the Israel Museum. “How do you operate with the airports and galleries and museums being closed?”

Eran-Levian’s department at the Israel Museum has been in operation for 21 years, working with dozens of museums around the world. When the coronavirus arrived in Israel, the museum had seven loans out to museums in Germany, Holland, Japan and Korea.

“In one fell swoop, everyone was in same situation and had to find solutions,” said Eran-Levian. “You trust your colleagues, but you also feel like you’re losing some control, so we had to find creative solutions.”

When the Israel Museum extended the loan of the 106 masterpieces to the Korean museum, it still weren’t clear when the works would be returned. But the museum staff knew that the Korean museum’s request made sense, and they figured out how to overcome the challenge, said Eran-Levian, adding that the Israel Embassy in Korea also helped out.

“We’re proud of our solution and it helped prepare us for the future,” said Eran-Levian. “Now we know how to continue working within this crisis.”

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