North Korean Art Makes Its UK Debut In Ealing


05 Wednesday 05th November 2014

Cultural exports from North Korea have always been of great interest to the Western world. From the cult of the Kim Jong-un haircut, to the kidnapping of film directors to build a North Korean film industry - under order from Kim Jong-il - the wrapped up world of the the DPRK has led to many questions from those locked out of it.

Expert on North Korean Art and Propaganda David Heather has thus been given the opportunity of a life time in curating the first show of North Korean art on British soil, hosted at the bizarrely located North Korean embassy on Gunnersbury Avenue, west London. 

While members of the general public were previously allowed no access to the embassy, they have taken a rather different tune for the exhibition. Regular imperialist pigs like you and me will now be able to enter the semi-detached three-bed imposing citadel to view new works from the residents of the Mansudae Art Studio in Pyongyang.

The four selected stars of the show, all males in their 40s, painted pictures of London art galleries, Trafalgar Square and the riverside, after going around various shows at the Tate, the V&A et al, taking special interest in the Rembrandt exhibition at the National Gallery. 

David Heather has reportedly been pushing for this to happen for over a decade, suggesting that despite his closeness with the DPRK, his plan to export its cultural gems hasn't been met with the greatest enthusiasm. The go ahead for this current exhibition happened so quickly that the selected artists were only given a couple of months to paint their creations, which seemed a pretty hasty way to expose the Western world to the artistic talents of a nation.

But this hasn't dampened Heather's spirits. He is fully confident that this four day exhibition will not only be a historical moment, but also the beginning of an integral cultural exchange. He aims to bring across four British artists to Pyongyang to respond to the show, urging any artist interested in gaining a perspective of North Korea and channelling it through a medium to get in contact. 

Recently, news of Kim Jong-un's ill-health suggested the country was in a weakened state. After he broke his ankles due to an obesity issue, media speculated that he may actually have died. Although he's since returned to the public eye, the artists were advised not to discuss this, nor any other question pertaining to the strength of the People's Republic. One of the artists, Ho Jae Song, was asked about whether he felt people in the West had a greater freedom to express their opinions.

Song cleverly retorted that he was under the impression that artists were treated the same in most cultures and therefore he enjoyed the freedom to paint as he wanted. If you want to ask any more questions to the savvy Art Boys of the Democratic Republic of North Korea, you can via the translators who are going to stick by them for the full four days of the show. But you will be shut down if you try to apply Marxist theory to their work. 

However, by letting David Heather reveal the artistic endeavours of a truly secretive state, North Korea appear to be softening their hard line in a time of great political uncertainty. There are sure to be many trips to Acton Town station throughout the duration of the exhibition. 

DPRK fine art exhibition runs from 4th to 7th of November, 73 Gunnersbury Avenue, Ealing, London

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