North Korean art makes a show in Vietnam

UPDATE: From Timeout (Vietnamese English publication):

The largest collection of paintings from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea) ever shown in Southeast Asia was put on display at the Nha Trang Sea festival last week.

The paintings were produced by more than two dozen artists with recognized artists – so-called Merited artists – and emerging talents all contributing.

The exhibition included a series of beautiful paintings in a variety of styles and materials – prints, watercolour, oil, pencil drawings and “jewel-powdered paintings”, a Korean specialty art.
With little exposure to the outside world, North Korean art is considered very pure. North Korean artists are loyal to their country and adhere to the country’s political philosophy.

In the absence of influences by contemporary art trends from the rest of the world the painters have, in a unique manner, developed their own techniques and the use of colors in an original style.

The displayed paintings include, among other things, a variety of beautiful sceneries of nature and of North Korean daily life. These pieces of artwork give a rare insight into the lives and thoughts of the people of this country.

Some of the most impressive pieces are the products of the veteran artist Han Gyong Bo and the emerging artist Han Song Il, a precocious 24-year old who has won many top prizes at national and international exhibitions.

Han Gyong  Bo is famous for his watercolour paintings of wistful and fanciful landscapes created in strong, deep and bold brush strokes. Meanwhile Han Song Il bewitches viewers with his romantic yearnings and smooth style. With refined and flowery strokes, Il’s paintings express the beauties of his country’s natural landscapes.

The painting collection belongs to Swiss businessman Felix Abt and his Hanoi-born wife Doan Lan Huong, who lived and worked in Pyongyang for seven years, where they got to know and love North Korean arts.

At present Abt and his family mostly stay in Nha Trang, Vietnam where they manage their own website, one of the very few on-line galleries outside North Korea permitted to sell art and to represent the country’s leading artists as well as new talents.

“Much to our surprise we noticed that (artistic) talents are identified very early in a person’s life and systematically fostered thereafter. As a consequence a high number end up as painters with extraordinary skills. Unfortunately this is largely ignored by the outside world,” says Felix Abt.

Together with the Korea Paekho Fine Arts Company in Pyongyang, Felix and his wife prepared last year the systematic launch and promotion of North Korean paintings on the world wide web and through other marketing measures.

Famous painters from North Korea as well as promising new talents, including young female painters, are now being introduced to a wider public. Abt’s website has been up and running since the beginning of this year and orders are coming from all over the world.

During his time in Pyongyang, Abt and his wife Huong had the opportunity to get acquainted not only with the country’s institutions involved in fine arts but also with numerous artists across the country.

“We learnt that the Koreans were not merely transmitting Chinese culture but also assimilating and adapting it and creating a unique culture of their own while also influencing neighbouring cultures for thousands of years,” says Abt.

But Abt knows that a good website alone is not sufficient to introduce North Korean paintings to a larger public. The paintings need to be physically closer to potential buyers.

“The Sea Festival in Nha Trang, where both Vietnamese and foreigners spend holidays and may want to shop in a relaxed atmosphere was a good opportunity for us to ‘test the market’ in Vietnam,” says Abt.

“In addition, since Nha Trang is a beautiful place with a highly promising potential for tourism, we intend to operate this business out of Nha Trang for both the domestic and international arts markets.”

Talking about their future galleries in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, Abt shares that making beautiful North Korean paintings available in these cities is a good idea since there are certainly a sufficient number of people in both cities who would love to have such paintings and can also afford them.

But instead of setting up their own galleries they would prefer to build up a close partnership with a couple of existing galleries in these cities that meet their expectations. Moreover, “this business model which we start in Vietnam could then be applied to other major cities in the region such as Singapore, Kuala Lumpur and Bangkok.”

Read the Press Release below:

ORIGINAL POST: According to PR Log:

Unique exhibition of North Korean paintings at the Nha Trang Sea Festival in Vietnam

For the first time ever North Korean paintings will be shown in Vietnam at an art exhibition during the Nha Trang Sea Festival. The festival is expected to attract large numbers of visitors from Vietnam and other Asian as well as Western countries and will be held from June 6 – 12. With more than 130 paintings it is probably the largest collection of paintings from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea) ever shown in Southeast Asia. The paintings stem from more than two dozen painters that include both top level people’s artists and merited artists such as the country’s best and most famous pencil painter, Prof. Han Gyong Bo, and younger talents such as the 24 year-old painter Han Song Il who won, among other things, the first prize at a fine arts exhibition in India. The exhibition includes a representative variety of beautiful Korean style paintings, prints, watercolour paintings, pencil drawings, Korean jewel-powdered paintings and oil paintings.

H.E. Le Van Cu, Vietnamese ambassador to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea) wrote on April 30 to “We applaud and highly appreciate your efforts in bringing fine art works imbued with DPRK national characteristics to the attention of the Vietnamese people and our overseas friends who join together in hundred thousands at this festival.”

Detailed information on the exhibition is published here.

Some good background information on art in the DPRK, as well as who is selling it overseas can be found here.


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