New DPRK art exhibit in Beijing

According to CNN:

The Beijing-based Jinghesheng Investment Company has partnered with the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), North Korea’s formal name, to exhibit — and sell — 60 oil paintings and 30 traditional Korean ink paintings.

“They were all carefully selected by the DPRK’s Ministry of Culture,” said exhibit director Li Xuemei. Although North Korean artworks may be available in some galleries in China and other countries, said Li, “you don’t really know where they came from, but ours are surely authentic artworks from DPRK.”

Inside a hall, the gallery showcases works of twenty North Korean artists affiliated with museums and art academies in Pyongyang. Li said the gallery receives as many as 100 visitors a day on the weekend and about 60 on weekdays.

The pieces depict landscapes and modern life. Many were painted by seasoned Pyongyang artists who hold honorific titles as “People’s Artists” and “Merit Artists.”

One oil painting, a socialist realist piece entitled “Huge Waves in the East Sea,” is three meters high and ten meters long and covers an entire wall of the gallery. Four artists collaborated on the painting using a wide scope of greens and blues to create textured and turbulent waves crashing into taupe gray rocks against a backdrop of blue sky.

The collection also includes watercolors, elegant portraits of Korean women in modern and traditional dress and wildlife.

Li said the artwork is only sold to elite customers, typically Chinese entrepreneurs in affluent cities like Hong Kong, Guangzhou and Dalian. She said 30 percent of the works on display have already been sold, but she declines to quote any prices.

“Many people chose to collect this art because North Korea is a country still closed to the outside world, although it is seeking to open up in the future,” Li said. “This makes North Korean artworks a good investment. Some artists have already passed away, making their work more unique and valuable.”

While the arts’ value may increase over time, their North Korean artists will not see any cash returns.

“In North Korea,” Li said, “art is not private property and the value made from the sales will go directly to the state.”

One artist and three North Korean government officials flew into Beijing to attend the opening of the show but stayed away from the media and declined to be interviewed.

While contemporary North Korean art is typically laden with a heavy message, the artworks showcased in the 798 art district leaves out traces of politics or propaganda. New collections of North Korean art will rotate through the gallery until in the coming months.

“We’ll show artworks on rotation,” Li said. “We’ll show different styles in the next collection.”

Additional Information:

1. The gallery is located in Beijing’s 798 district located here.

2. Pictures of the gallery and art can be seen here.

3. Nick Bonner has his collection on display in Beijing as well.  His new web page is hereHis old web page is here. Mr. Bonner recently showed some North Korean art in Australia.

4. Felix Abt offers pieces by artists at Pyongyang’s Paekho Art Studio here.

5. David Heather sells North Korean art here and here from the Mansudae Art Studio.

6. A separate web page claims to be the official site of the Mansudae Studio here.

7. The Mansudae Art Studio is located here.

8. Here is another page claiming to sell North Korean art.  It seems to be based in Germany.

9. Here are a couple of books on North Korean art: Art Under Control in North Korea, North Korean Posters

10. Here is a book review of North Korean Posters which offers additional information.

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