Open

Coming up

Don't miss

Replay


LATEST SHOWS

MIDDLE EAST MATTERS

Spat over Iran's UN ambassador hampers thawing relations with US

Read more

FOCUS

China trade deal: Is Taiwan's identity under threat?

Read more

IN THE PAPERS

'Call it a caretaker government'

Read more

DEBATE

Nigeria's Battles

Read more

DEBATE

Nigeria's Battles (part 2)

Read more

MEDIAWATCH

Pornography without borders is key benefit of EU, says French MEP

Read more

BUSINESS DAILY

Google Glass sale a test of consumer interest

Read more

IN THE PAPERS

Back to the future

Read more

AFRICA NEWS

Over 70 killed in Nigeria bus station terror attack

Read more

  • Rescue effort under way as ferry sinks off S. Korean coast

    Read more

  • Putin says Ukraine 'on brink of war' as Kiev evicts separatists

    Read more

  • Brazilian club Atletico loses patience with Anelka before he even arrives

    Read more

  • Syria 'torture' photos silence UN Security Council members

    Read more

  • Paris laboratory loses deadly SARS virus samples

    Read more

  • More than 100 schoolgirls kidnapped in northeast Nigeria

    Read more

  • New York police disband unit targeting Muslims

    Read more

  • 'Miracle girl' healthy after seven-organ transplant in Paris

    Read more

  • Paris police memo calling for Roma eviction ‘rectified’

    Read more

  • Burgundy digs into France's bureaucratic 'mille-feuille'

    Read more

  • French court drops ‘hate speech’ case against Bob Dylan

    Read more

  • Algeria rights crackdown slammed ahead of election

    Read more

  • Iraq closes notorious Abu Ghraib jail over security fears

    Read more

  • Berlusconi sentenced to community service for tax fraud

    Read more

  • In ‘Tom at the Farm’, Xavier Dolan blends Hitchcock and homoeroticism

    Read more

  • US to mark one year since Boston Marathon bombing

    Read more

  • India's Supreme Court establishes third gender category

    Read more

  • Bluefin-21 'mini-sub' redeploys for Malaysian jet

    Read more

  • Paris hotel that hosted Holocaust survivors shuts for renovation

    Read more

  • French police begin mass DNA test in hunt for school rapist

    Read more

  • France looks to lift ailing economy with business-friendly diplomacy

    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

Comments

COMMENT(S)