This North Korean art factory will build monuments to your rulers

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This recreation of the Frankfurt fairytale fountain was built at the Mansudae Art Studio in North Korea. (via Wikipedia)

Here’s something you might not have known: There is a huge art factory in North Korea that makes monuments, sculptures, statues museums and more for at least a dozen countries around the world. . In a fascinating story in Bloomberg Business Week, writer Caroline Winter lays out details – or at least those she can pull together – of the Mansudae Art Studio in Pyongyang, which occupies 30 acres, employs 4,000 people, including 1,000 artists, and also includes a football stadium, stationery, sauna, and kindergarten. Why does every story that comes out of North Korea somehow seem weirder than the last?

Another example of Mansudae’s work is Senegal’s 164-foot-tall African Resistance Monument. (click to enlarge) (via dorothy.voorhees on Flickr)

Some of the international work that Mansudae workers have completed include: a reconstruction of the fairy tale fountain in Frankfurt, Germany; the mammoth of Senegal (164 feet high) African Renaissance monument; the State House of Namibia; and the Grand Panorama Museum in Cambodia, which will soon open. The studio / factory is also responsible for the North Korean state’s propaganda, which includes portraits, posters and monuments celebrating the country’s rulers Kim Il Sung, Kim Jong Il and Kim Jong Un. But the existence of ‘an art factory doing propaganda for an autocratic government is not strange; it’s the international commissions that are hilarious and unexpected.

According to Winter, Germany is to date the only Western democracy to have retained the services of Mansudae. He did so in 2005, ordering the recreation of the fountain for a total amount of € 200,000 ($ 264,480 today). Klaus Klemp, deputy director of the Museum of Applied Arts in Frankfurt, told Winter: “Leading artists in Germany just don’t do realistic work anymore. North Koreans, on the other hand, have not known the long evolution of modern art; they’re kind of stuck in the early 1900s, that’s exactly when this fountain was made. And it went perfectly well, except for a slight styling issue: the North Korean sculpted the woman with “a kind of cement block hairstyle,” in Klemp’s words – a bit too much. Communist / socialist realist for 21st century Germany.

Narcissistic leaders from a handful of African countries have also outsourced their projects to Mansudae, for which they have been criticized at home. But you can’t beat the price! Former Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade reportedly told the the Wall Street newspaper, “Only North Koreans could build my statue. I did not have money.

What makes the story even stranger is the fact that international sales of the studio’s smaller works are handled by an Italian named Pier Luigi Cecioni. Its “official website abroad” is also managed from Italy and assures you that Mansudae “is not a sort of chain factory, like some Chinese centers and other oriental centers, nor a school, but a center. of very high quality art production “. And although grand tributes to quasi-corrupt rulers with dictatorial tendencies seem to be Mansudae’s specialty, artists there also excel in painting realistic street scenes and landscapes, many of which are inspired by classical European predecessors. The website offers a range of harmoniously harmless images like this:

Han Guang Hun, “Dance Party in Open Air” (2006), oil, 78 x 103 cm (via mansudaeartstudio.com)

The prices are not indicated, but you can start the purchase process by filling out this form. You could really build an incredible collection of North Korean art this way… or at least spend hours trying to understand North Korea better by browsing the works on offer. Below are a few more of our favorites, but nothing beats clicking the site yourself.

Kim Hyon Myong, “Confrontation” (2006), oil, 84 x 129 cm

Kim Hak Rim, “Emergency Call” (1999), woodcut, 32 x 80 cm

Kim Song Sil, “Basket of Kim Jong Il Flowers” ​​(2003), embroidery, 64 x 80 cm

By reinventing the traditional bokashi technically, Hamanaka reminds us that nothing is dead, even when many claim the opposite.


The company’s mastery of the smoke and mirrors of the art market is its most impressive illusion.


Unfortunately, but not surprisingly, there is a priority for this feminine erasure. Women have been and continue to be the performers of the invisible, unpaid and unaccredited work that keeps much of the world running smoothly.



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