The Associated Press follows a controversy in Australia over a group of North Korean artists who were denied visas to Australia over the country’s concern with the Stalinist nation’s nuclear weapons program. The Australian government is trying to send a message but organizers of an important show think they’re punishing the wrong people:
Five artists from the Mansudae Art Studio were invited to the Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art in the eastern city of Brisbane to talk about their paintings and drawings that are part of the exhibition, which includes work from more than 100 artists from 25 countries in the region. […] “The studio reportedly produces almost all of the official artworks in North Korea, including works that clearly constitute propaganda aimed at glorifying and supporting the North Korean regime,” the statement said. Some of Mansudae’s approximately 1,000 artists devote their time completely to painting portraits of Kim Il Sung […].
Nick Bonner, a Beijing-based British businessman and art dealer who helped curate the exhibition, said all art studios in North Korea – like most other things in the hardline state – were government organizations, but that did not mean every work was political. One large mosaic depicting a scene in a steel mill is from the socialist realism that is often associated with the country, Bonner said. The rest, including portraits and landscapes in ink or oil paint, were the artists’ individual works.
“There’s no way on earth that any of the pieces we commissioned for the inks and oils can in any way resemble propaganda,” Bonner told The Associated Press. “It’s fine art we are talking about.”
The artists were extremely disappointed in Australia’s decision, after spending weeks getting North Korean authorities to approve passports, Bonner said.
Australia accused of censorship over NKorean art (AP/Washington Post)