As an honorary reporter for Korean Culture and Information Service this year, a group of reporters based in Korea had the privilege of visiting the special exhibition entitled “Icons and Identities” presents by the Korean National Museum in collaboration with the National Portrait Gallery, based in London.

It has been said that this special exhibition is the first to introduce Korean viewers to this world-renowned collection which will stay open to the public until August 15, 2021 in Seoul.

The portrait collection showcases artistic expressions of well-known public figures of the last 500 years, wide-ranging personalities that represent a wide range– icons of fame, power, love and loss, innovation, identity and self-portraits. The collection includes iconic figures—from William Shakespeare and Charles Dickens to Nelson Mandela and the young Pakistani activist Malala Yousafzai in 2018 made by Iranian visual artist Shirin Neshat.

The curator says that a portrait can powerfully evoke the sitter’s presence and act as a visual substitute for that person and adds that it’s both simple and multifaceted, unfamiliar yet immediately engaging at the same time. Viewing a portrait involves a visual and mental dance between looking at an image and engaging with the person represented. The exhibition introduces viewers to the lives of seventy-six people and tells stories on the genre of portraiture. We live in an age in which images overpower words. Sometimes, just one image can tell everything about the person. Today’s selfies and 16th century portrait paintings share the same goal, fundamentally.

In addition, the organizers of the special visit for honorary reporters based in Korea offered traditional seal carving, a cultural experience of making a personal seal on stones known as Jeongak, which is an artistic synthesis of calligraphy, painting, sculpture and design. We made our own personalized seals, equipped with calligraphic distinctive handwriting and traditional carving techniques guided by professionals in the field.