Ancient Abstract Korean Pottery

Korean drum vase

New York, NY Korean buncheong ceramics is one of those forms that makes you wonder if the Modernists were truly modern.

Buncheong is  a 20th Century coinage for a  experimental form of  stoneware that was the rage in Korean households in the 15th and 16th Centuries. The word is a contraction for a longer term that means gray-green stoneware decorated in white.

White slip vase, Korean
Korean buncheong vase with iron painted abstract floral design

Originally a Court form, after 1460  buncheong was passed along to the masses through government sponsored kilns.  Unfettered by dynastic or imperial mandates, Korean potters let rustic and organic forms come off the wheel. They decorated them with abstractions informed by ancient iron designs.

Peonies, for instance, could be conjured with a few fluid lines. A black lotus that pushes through white slip or a lotus blossom of reverse inlay that emerges from negative space could have been created today. In fact, there is a revival of the form today and  the show’s curators have included examples of buncheong-inspired 21st Century ceramic art.

For a look at the best remaining examples of this truly amazing work, spend an hour or so perusing  Korean Buncheong Pottery: Poetry in Clay at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The exhibit runs through August 14. For more information before viewing, check out the cover story in the May 6 issue of Art and Antiques Weekly.


Korean drum vase
Korean drum shaped vase in the Met's Exhibit, "Buncheong Pottery: Poetry in Clay"

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Urban Art and Antiques first published in 2007. If you are interested in becoming a contributor, let us know. Email urbanartantiques (at)

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