Archive: Art in North Korea
Segregated from the rest of the world, eerie North Korea

Segregated from the rest of the world, eerie North Korea

Philippe Chancel - DPRK - North Korea
Philippe Chancel – DPRK

Philippe Chancel’s photographs from North Korea are simply remarkable. Chancel joins the ranks of the few photographers in the world that have actually managed to document the impenetrable nation of North Korea. For more than half a century, this enigma of a country has been the personification of a rogue state; North Korea is an incredibly closed and reclusive nation.

In North Korea, the flow of information is controlled: Koreans do not have access to international newspaper publications, and the internet use is monitored heavily. Because of this restricted flow of information, the world only gets to see what the North Korean government wants it to see, which has led to contrasting views of the state. Philip Chancel’s collection was created to reconcile the way that the North Korean government presents itself and the way the rest of the world views it.

Philippe Chancel has been collecting pictures that echo elements of art, journalism, and documentaries for years. His 2006 North Korean series was later turned into a book of the same title published by Thames and Hudson. His collection featured images of the heavily controlled Pyongyang, as well as numerous pictures of the infamous leaders of the state Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong-il. The photographs featured were documented between 2005 and 2012 and they also featured celebrations and events happening in the elusive nation.

Having witnessed the decline of Europe during the socialist regime, the scenes that Chancel photographed during his stay in North Korea were too familiar to him. But according to the photographer, the attitude of the Koreans seemed quite different from the Russians that lived under a similar socialist regime.

North Korea juxtaposes the official imagery that the country’s press agency releases against Philippe’s works. Chancel’s work manages to occupy a vacuum where politics, trade, business, and diplomacy cannot go. As such, Phillipe manages to open up the floor for conversations about the complications in the state so that the world can get a broader form of understanding of North Korea.

His North Korea series also forced people to question what it must be like for the North Koreans to live under Communist ideas in an incredibly contemporary society. Chancel’s work has been widely exhibited in various parts of the world. It has also brought him international recognition for his ability to reveal a version of North Korea that had not been manipulated by the government.

Philippe Chancel - DPRK - North Korea
Philippe Chancel – DPRK

Philippe Chancel - DPRK - North Korea
Philippe Chancel – DPRK

Philippe Chancel - DPRK - North Korea
Philippe Chancel – DPRK

Philippe Chancel - DPRK - North Korea
Philippe Chancel – DPRK

Philippe Chancel - DPRK - North Korea
Philippe Chancel – DPRK

Philippe Chancel - DPRK - North Korea
Philippe Chancel – DPRK

Philippe Chancel - DPRK - North Korea
Philippe Chancel – DPRK

Philippe Chancel - DPRK - North Korea
Philippe Chancel – DPRK

Philippe Chancel - DPRK - North Korea
Philippe Chancel – DPRK

Philippe Chancel - DPRK - North Korea
Philippe Chancel – DPRK

Philippe Chancel - DPRK - North Korea
Philippe Chancel – DPRK

Philippe Chancel - DPRK - North Korea
Philippe Chancel – DPRK

Philippe Chancel - DPRK - North Korea
Philippe Chancel – DPRK

Philippe Chancel - DPRK - North Korea
Philippe Chancel – DPRK

Philippe Chancel - DPRK - North Korea
Philippe Chancel – DPRK

Philippe Chancel - DPRK - North Korea
Philippe Chancel – DPRK

Philippe Chancel - DPRK - North Korea
Philippe Chancel – DPRK

Philippe Chancel - DPRK - North Korea
Philippe Chancel – DPRK

Philippe Chancel - DPRK - North Korea
Philippe Chancel – DPRK

Philippe Chancel - DPRK - North Korea
Philippe Chancel – DPRK

Philippe Chancel - DPRK - North Korea
Philippe Chancel – DPRK

Philippe Chancel - DPRK - North Korea
Philippe Chancel – DPRK

Philippe Chancel - DPRK - North Korea
Philippe Chancel – DPRK

Philippe Chancel - DPRK - North Korea
Philippe Chancel – DPRK

Philippe Chancel - DPRK - North Korea
Philippe Chancel – DPRK

Philippe Chancel - DPRK - North Korea
Philippe Chancel – DPRK

Philippe Chancel - DPRK - North Korea
Philippe Chancel – DPRK

Philippe Chancel - DPRK - North Korea
Philippe Chancel – DPRK

Philippe Chancel - DPRK - North Korea
Philippe Chancel – DPRK

Philippe Chancel - DPRK - North Korea
Philippe Chancel – DPRK

Philippe Chancel - DPRK - North Korea
Philippe Chancel – DPRK

Philippe Chancel - DPRK - North Korea
Philippe Chancel – DPRK

Philippe Chancel - DPRK - North Korea
Philippe Chancel – DPRK


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North Korea leaves its mark on Africa with huge sculptures

North Korea leaves its mark on Africa with huge sculptures

The Mansudae Overseas Project - Angola - Agostinho Neto Mausoleum, Luanda 1
Angola – Agostinho Neto Mausoleum, Luanda

Artwork from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea has always been a trademark for modern socialist realism. Although North Korea is well known for being the most secretive nation in the world, the largely unknown nation is certainly not shy when it comes to publicizing their statues, monuments, grand festivals, and celebrations. In particular, a North Korean based construction company known as Mansudae Overseas Project, has been designing fine art for decades, helping art to become one of North Korea’s most important and most successful exports. While many other North Korean barriers remain up, fine art from the country has managed to make its way in foreign countries that are located as far away as Africa.

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How North Korea likes to present itself to the world

How North Korea likes to present itself to the world

Philippe Chancel - Arirang, May Day Stadium, Pyongyang, North Korea, 2006
Philippe Chancel – Arirang, May Day Stadium, Pyongyang, North Korea, 2006

Every year, North Korea holds a lavish and extravagant celebration for its ruler known as the Arirang celebrations. The Arirang celebrations can be classified in the same category as the Olympic celebrations. The audience is always treated to a highly choreographed show, the likes of which have only ever been seen at the Olympics.

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Pyongyang interiors in unexpected and bizarre colors

Pyongyang interiors in unexpected and bizarre colors

Oliver Wainwright - National Drama Theatre, Pyongyang
Oliver WainwrightNational Drama Theatre, Pyongyang, 2015

Oliver Wainwright North Korean Interiors documents the unique architecture and the interiors of various regions of North Korea and its capital Pyongyang. Not many photographers get the opportunity to explore this isolated country owing to its closed state; however, Wainwright took the opportunity and ran with it. The interiors that he documented were very kitsch and retro as they were originally created to adorn important theaters and buildings that were designed during the Soviet era.

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Calm photos of Pyongyang, the ultimate socialist city

Calm photos of Pyongyang, the ultimate socialist city

North Korea - Setting the Stage - Pyongyang - Pyongyang women 01

North Korea - Setting the Stage - Pyongyang - Pyongyang women 01
Eddo HartmannSetting the Stage: Pyongyang – Pyongyang women 01, 2014

North Korea is known for its fascination and terror in the same measure. Most of the world knows North Korea for its former leader Kim Jong-II and the current Kim Jong Un. However, the fascinating thing about Pyongyang is its architecture.

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Serving in the military inspired these red paintings

Serving in the military inspired these red paintings

Sea Hyun Lee - Between Red_101, 2010, oil on linen, 300x300cm

Sea Hyun Lee - Between Red_101, 2010, oil on linen, 300x300cm
Sea Hyun LeeBetween Red_101, 2010, oil on linen, 300x300cm

South Korea’s traditional illustrative and art history is immovable; however, cultural and artistic experimentation will always be relentless. Sea Hyun Lee demonstrates his understanding of just how true the above statement is through his art. He manages to join the two forces of past and present together to create Between the Red.

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Prohibited photos from world’s most isolated country

Prohibited photos from world’s most isolated country

Michal Huniewicz - North Korea - Pyongyang
Michal HuniewiczOstensibly Ordinary: Pyongyang
Inhabitants of Pyongyang commuting.

A lot of attention was recently drawn to a series of photographs taken by London-based photographer Michal Huniewicz. These photographs are somewhat prohibited as they show the real side of North Korea. Tourists who want to visit North Korea are only allowed to do so through pre-arranged tours booked via travel agencies. When they arrive, there will be tour guides who will be with them at all times throughout their stay in the country. It is quite normal for tour guides to be assigned to tourists so as to ease their movements and make the tour a worthy experience but truthfully, the main job of tour guides in North Korea is to prevent tourists from interacting with locals, to prevent them from taking pictures and keep them away from areas where there is a high rate of poverty and unhappiness. Tourists are not allowed to take photos of soldiers and there are certain places where cameras are not allowed to be used.

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