Are Shaman Paintings Material Religion or Religious Art?

Jong-chun Park, Korea University

Laurel Kendall, Jongsung Yang, and Yul Soo Yoon. God Pictures in Korean Contexts: The Ownership and Meaning of Shaman Paintings. Honolulu: University of Hawai'i Press, 2015. 176 pp. $54 (cloth); $29 (paper).

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God Pictures in Korean Contexts: The Ownership and Meaning of Shaman Paintings is a pioneering work, one that explores the proverbial “road not taken” by previous research on the subject. The authors situate “the lives of Korean shaman paintings [musindo] in a complex South Korean world; in shaman shrines, private collections, and museums." Incorporating their vivid experiences in the field, authors Laurel Kendall, anthropologist and curator at the American Museum of Natural History; Jongsung Yang, collector and director of the Museum of Shamanism in Seoul; and Yul Soo Yoon, art historian and director of the Gahoe Museum in Seoul, investigate not merely the religious meanings and functions of shaman paintings, but how these meanings and functions are accepted, appropriated, and even created, depending on the interests of various participants—shamans, painters, collectors of shaman paintings, and so on—who are relevant to these visual forms of expressive culture...