An exhibition of North Korean portrait and landscape oil paintings has been displayed at the Shanxi Art Museum in the North since Chinese people are purchasing them as investments. More than 300 oil paintings from three generations of North Korean painters are on display at the exhibition. Gu Xinxia, the curator of the exhibition, recommended the works of Kim Chang-sung. Kim's paintings reflect a milestone in the nationalization of North Korean oil paintings, Gu said. Kim's landscape painting at the exhibition features the natural scenery of North Korea and the Yalu River, which divides China and North Korea. Gu said that even though Kim is over 70 years old, he is still painting new large-size works. Having visited China on several occasions, Kim has proven popular here, with many of his works being sold in the country as well as overseas. "Kim often laments that his best time, best works and his most enthusiastic period of creation have all been in China," she added.
In another eye-catching work painted in 2018, a North Korean woman in traditional dress lies on a tiger-skin rug with her eyes closed. This sleeping beauty's dress and the cultural elements on the screen behind her all share similarities with Chinese culture.
It was the first exhibition of 2021 organized by the Jinzhao Art Museum, a museum in Dandong, Northeast China's Liaoning Province. The COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 has had a huge impact on all off-line art exhibitions. Before October 2020, the Jinzhao Art Museum was unable to hold exhibitions but mainly focused on planning some online exhibitions and promoting several North Korean artists online, Gu noted.
Although North Korea has closed all borders due to the pandemic, Gu said that the Jinzhao Art Museum has a vast collection after devoting itself to collecting North Korean artworks for nearly a decade now, which is more than enough to support holding art exhibitions.
Many Korean paintings were introduced to China during the 17th century, and many noble families, officials and businessmen liked to give these painting as gifts.
At present, compared with high-priced oil paintings in Western countries, the prices of North Korean paintings tend to be relatively inexpensive and so are affordable by the middle-class Chinese. Many people like to buy these original paintings to hang them on the wall of their living rooms, some Chinese art critics have noted.
"Relatively speaking, the artistic creation of North Korean artists is pure without too much commercialization drive," according to Gu.