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The Kim Utopia

  • 3 April till 30 August 2015
  • Drents Museum

Paintings from North Korea

Idyllic scenes of family life, brave soldiers, heroic labourers and songs of praise to the Great Leader. The exhibition The Kim Utopia - Paintings from North Korea at the Drents Museum provides a unique glimpse behind the North Korean curtain through a collection of about 100 paintings and works on paper. The paintings were produced by professional North Korean painters in State employment in the period between 1960 and 2010. The exhibition, which will be held from 3 April until 30 August, will show how the regime used socialist-realistic art to create and maintain a utopian North Korea. The photo exhibition North Korean Perspectives will also be hosted by the Museum in the same period.

Idealized society
The exhibition is based on works from a unique Dutch private collection owned by collector Ronald de Groen. For twenty years, a specially appointed group of North Koreans searched the country for high-quality socialist-realistic art. The paintings illustrate a North Korean society that was orchestrated and idealized by the State: the Kim Utopia. Important themes include the Great Leader, heroic resistance and patriotism, industrial and scientific progress and agricultural fertility.

Art as a political medium
Under the visionary leadership of Kim Il Sung (Eternal President of the Republic, 1912 - 1994) this utopian North Korea managed to shed the burden of the past. The Kim Utopia illustrates how North Koreans could work freely towards a paradisal future. At the same time, the works in the exhibition demonstrate the power of art as a political medium and the interwovenness of art and politics, as we have also seen in Soviet Russia and Maoist China. The Kim Utopia is the fourth exhibition in the series International Realism at the Drents Museum.

The Kim Utopia was developed in collaboration with Dr. Koen De Ceuster of the Leiden Institute of Area Studies, Leiden University. De Ceuster is an international authority in the field of North Korean art and culture policy. The exhibition will be accompanied by a publication that is also entitled The Kim Utopia, published by WBOOKS, Zwolle. The book will be available at the Museum Shop for € 24,95.

North Korean Perspectives
3 April - 30 August 2015

What impression do we have of North Korea on the basis of the photographs that are available to us? That is the central question in the photo exhibition North Korean Perspectives, which will be organized at the Drents Museum simultaneously with The Kim Utopia. While The Kim Utopia focuses mainly on the idealized North Korea, this photo exhibition compares the official version of the State with an alternative view of the country.

The approved photographs by the State press agency KCNA and photographers such as Philippe Chancel and Pierre Bessard are mirrored by those taken by international photo journalists working in North Korea, such as David Guttenfelder and Thomas Van Houtryve, as well as images by international artists like Alice Wielinga and Seung Woo Back, who present their views of North Korea in photographs, sometimes combined with other media. These projects serve to counterbalance the controlled image that is distributed by the North Korean State.

North Korean Perspectives was compiled by the internationally renowned curator Marc Prüst and commissioned by Noorderlicht.