Asia Scope

Peeking at DPRK Art

Expanding on my post earlier on North Korean art and its ‘cultural renaissance under Kim Jong-Il,’ –there also appears to be growing interest in DPRK art worldwide.

This summer a private collection of North Korean paintings was unveiled to the public at the Granite Room gallery in the US.  The exhibit, North Korea Art Exhibit, displayed works from some of ‘the most distinguished artists in North Korea’, with its organizer claiming this was the ‘the first of its kind’ in the United States.

In a nice philanthropic gesture, the show also donated 50% of its sales proceeds from the artwork to a program to feed orphans in the DPRK through soymilk factories.

Over in Beijing, a group of British, Chinese and Korean art specialists run The Pyongyang Art Studio where they have been dealing exclusively with fine art from North Korea since 1993. They describe the North Korean contemporary socialist realism art scene as, ‘highly developed in DPRK as it is part of daily life, mainly in the form of posters in streets, schools, cinemas, and official buildings.’ Their online gallery of paintings is interesting. The series of portraits of North Korean citizens performing an array of activities has one obvious thing in common—radiantly smiling faces.

Those who have seen the official photographs from meetings between Kim Jong-Il and visiting world leaders may have noticed a hard-to-miss mural serving as a backdrop. The Wall Street Journal recently used Bill Clinton’s visit as an opportunity for a closer look at this large painting of crashing waves and birds in an article ‘Why Dictators Love Kitsch.’ It says that: ‘This is no ordinary painting but art with a purpose…. The message of the painting… is a simple one: Kim Jong-Il’s regime as a force of nature.’