Open

Coming up

Don't miss

Replay


LATEST SHOWS

WEB NEWS

Web users divided over Darren Wilson

Read more

ENCORE!

From Paris's Liberation to 'arresting' art in Avignon

Read more

INSIDE THE AMERICAS

Ferguson riots: Pressure mounts on Obama

Read more

IN THE PAPERS

'The pen is mightier than the sword'

Read more

IN THE PAPERS

'Requiem for a recorder'

Read more

DEBATE

Pakistan's Political Turmoil: Can Imran Khan's PTI Party Depose the Government?

Read more

DEBATE

Pakistan's Political Turmoil: Can Imran Khan's PTI Party Depose the Government? (part 2)

Read more

DEBATE

Racism, riots and police violence: USA under scrutiny

Read more

FOCUS

Israel's minorities and military service

Read more

  • Special report: Supplying Ukraine’s soldiers on the front line

    Read more

  • US reaches historic $16bn settlement with Bank of America

    Read more

  • US forces tried to rescue slain reporter from IS captors

    Read more

  • Israeli air strike kills three top Hamas commanders

    Read more

  • Interactive: Relive the Liberation of Paris in WWII

    Read more

  • Former Irish PM Albert Reynolds dies at 81

    Read more

  • Former Femen activist detained after fighting veiled woman

    Read more

  • Tensions high in Yemen as Shiite rebel deadline looms

    Read more

  • Thailand coup leader Prayuth Chan-ocha voted prime minister

    Read more

  • Deadly street battles hit Ukrainian rebel stronghold

    Read more

  • French village rallies behind besieged elderly British couple

    Read more

  • Brazil’s Silva launches bid after Campos plane crash death

    Read more

  • Brutal IS beheading video sparks social media pushback

    Read more

  • Netanyahu compares Hamas to IS, Gaza offensive to continue

    Read more

  • France’s ex-PM Juppé sets up presidential clash with Sarkozy

    Read more

  • US attorney general visits Missouri town after fatal shooting

    Read more

Culture

North Korean art show stirs controversy in Vienna

Text by Priscille LAFITTE

Latest update : 2010-06-25

An exhibition of North Korean art in Vienna offers a rare glimpse into the isolated country’s art scene. But critics have slammed the lack of background information, calling the show a blatant example of political propaganda.

Well-fed kids with flowers in their hair lying in blossoming gardens… This is how North Korean painters see their famine-hit country according to an exhibition at the Museum of Applied Arts (MAK) in Vienna.

The figures of Kim Il-sung, the founder of the reclusive Communist regime, and his son and successor Kim Jong-il loom large over pieces of work dominated by shades of blue and red, the colours of North Korea’s national flag. The exhibition also includes some fine examples of pure Stalinian architecture – a style that never went out of fashion in Pyongyang.

The exhibition resulted from a close collaboration between the MAK and North Korea’s national museum, the Korean Art Gallery. The BBC reported that North Korean art chief Han Chang Gyu told visitors on the show’s opening he hoped these pieces of work depicting the “heroic life of our people” would lead to a “better understanding” of his secretive country.


In bed with the Kims


But bringing these North Korean’s masterpieces to a western audience wasn’t without hurdles. The exhibition director, Bettina Busse, told France24.com it took the MAK long months of negotiations to get the show’s highlight - monumental portraits of Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il proudly encouraging children, soldiers, and peasants on their paths to a glorious revolutionary future.

“This is the first time these pieces of work have been allowed out of North Korea, where people are well aware of the West’s critical stance towards these iconic images. They don’t really understand why we’re interested in their art,” said Busse.

The Kim dynasty portraits are the regime’s most treasured pieces of art since they’re usually produced by the country’s best artists in the finest Stalinian aesthetic tradition.
Convincing the regime to send its most valuable contemporary paintings was only the beginning for the MAK. The Viennese museum also had to battle with suspicious Pyongyang officials to arrange the exhibition as it saw fit, with North Korean requests encompassing the smallest details.

“In the catalogue, the reproduction of the Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il portraits had to be printed in big size, but not cut in two by the book’s middle line,” said Busse.


Political propaganda


The exhibition does not include any background explanation on the totalitarian nature of the North Korean regime, a compromise by the museum with authorities in Pyongyang that came under fire from some politicians and artists. But the MAK forcefully denied it was giving a free pass to the regime’s propaganda.

“Visitors know very well that North Korea is the last dictatorship in the world. There is really no need to remind them of this fact. We just want to show North Korean contemporary art, not to talk about politics," Busse told France24.com

For those who want to know more about the regime, MAK is planning a seminar in early September on North Korean art that will cover the reclusive nation’s political situation.
 

Date created : 2010-06-25

  • NORTH KOREA

    Pyongyang threatens military action over UN rebukes

    Read more

  • NORTH KOREA

    Beijing says North Korea killed three Chinese at border

    Read more

  • ART

    Christie's auctions pieces from Yves Saint Laurent’s country home

    Read more

COMMENT(S)