Contemporary North Korean Art:
The Evolution of Socialist Realism
June 18 through August 14, 2016
Park Ryong, Farewell, 1997.
Chosonhwa, 48.5 x 64 in. (North Korean)
Kim Song-keun, Cha Yong-ho, Kim Chol, Ri Ki-song, Rescue in the Dark Sea, 1997.
Chosonhwa (ink on rice paper), 81 x 157 in.
Courtesy of Mr. Ji Zheng-tai, Beijing, China.
The forms and structure of contemporary North Korean art, a
central and highly developed dimension of the national culture, are largely
unknown to the outside world. Whether a true sense of art as understood in the
West exists or not in North Korea has remained an open question for most people
outside the DPRK.
This exhibition, the first of its kind in the US, seeks to
broaden understanding of North Korean art beyond stereotypes of propaganda and
kitsch to show sophisticated and nuanced expressive achievements.It investigates previously unrevealed
evidence of North Korean artistic experimentation and that nation’s particular
evolution of Socialist Realism within its own culturally homogeneous
Special focus is given to the development of Chosonhwa,
North Korea’s predominant painting medium that is revered as the nations most
refined. Chosonhwa is traditional Oriental ink-and-brush painting on rice paper
that absorbed Socialist Realism influences in the 1950s and has since
progressed to become its own distinct art form.While working within prescribed thematic bounds, DPRK artists often
succeed in conveying profound human emotion. On view will be important
Chosonhwa works from the 1960s through the present, including monumental
tableaus, that clearly reflect the DPRK’s special blend of Socialism with
This project is the fruit of curator and Georgetown
Professor BG Muhn’s personal expertise on the subject.Over the past five years he has made numerous
study trips to Pyongyang. His research has been on-site and first-hand, with
unprecedented access to the original works and their artists.He says, “I visited many art studios
including Mansudae Art Studio, the largest state-run art studio in the world,
and interviewed numerous artists and art historians. It has been an awakening
experience to explore the heart of North Korea’s ever-evolving Chosonhwa, the
only variety of Socialist Realism that remains in active production
On view Tuesday-Sunday, 11 am - 4 pm through August 14. An exhibition catalog accompanying this exhibition is for sale in the Museum Store ($20).