An exhibition of paintings in London gives an new insight into the work of artists in, almost certainly, the world’s most secretive states; the art of North Korea is almost entirely unfamiliar to the rest of the world. The exhibition is taking place in the country’s embassy in London; where the public will be invited on the communist country’s usually closed environment for the firs time.
Number 73 Gunnersbury Avenue in west London is the location of the this new exhibition; built as a substantial family home, it houses the UK embassy of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK). But now it has been transformed into an art gallery, exhibiting the work of four artists who have recent painted their impressions of London. This is the first gesture of its kind by the country; to allow the public access to its embassy and its artists is unprecedented.
The works on display include images of the recent installation piece ‘Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red’ at the Tower of London ; and a portrait two young women by the River Thames. As well these pictures painted in the London capital there are further works selected from the Mansudae Art Studio in Pyongyang, by the exhibitions curator David Heather. Who has been trying to persuade the North Korean authorities to mount such a show for over ten years.
“The practicalities have been complex but the intention has been simple all along,” he told the BBC.
“We’re bringing two cultures together, exchanging comments and criticism. It builds a bridge, which can surely only be of benefit.”
The artists on display at the embassy are, Jon Pyong Jin, Kim Hun, Ho Jae Song, and Hong Song Il; who are all male and in their 40s; who have ventured out into the capital to see various collection that they were hitherto unable to see; such as the Tate, the V&A, and the Rembrandt exhibition at the National Gallery – even though three of the artist’s have been awarded the North Korean honour of Merited Artist.
Heather continued by saying he’d be delighted to see queues that stretched from the front door of the embassy half-way to Acton Town station to see a cross-section of the nation’s art .
To anyone with a knowledge of North Korean politics and its relationship with the west, allowing entrance alone will count as a notable development.
“What I’m planning is that we now take a group of artists from Britain to the DPRK. I’m hoping that artists who think they have something to offer will contact me: I would love to see British artists going to Pyongyang and painting what they find there and exhibiting there too.” Heather conitnued in his conversation with the BBC. “The exhibition in London is only for four days but it may lead to something more lasting. If nothing else it’s a chance to come and stand on North Korean territory in London. I’m sure some people will think that’s an adventure in itself – but I hope they enjoy the art too.”
DPRK fine art exhibition 4-7 November, 73 Gunnersbury Avenue, Ealing, London