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Art Under Control in North Korea

Nuclear bombs and geopolitical controversy are often the first things associated with North Korea and its volatile leader Kim Jong-II. Yet behind the secretive curtain of this isolated nation also lies a little-known and slowly expanding world of art.

Art Under Control in North Korea is the first Western publication to explore the state-controlled role of art in North Korea. This timely volume places North Korean art in its historical, political, and social contexts, with a discussion on the state system of cultivating and promoting artists and an examination of the range of art produced, from painting and calligraphy to architecture and applied art. Portal offers an incisive analysis that compares the dictatorial control exerted over artists by North Korean leaders to that of past regimes. She also examines the ways in which archaeology has been employed for political ends to legitimize the present regime.

Art Under Control in North Korea is an intriguing and vibrant volume that explores the creation of art under totalitarian rule and the ways art can subvert a dictatorial regime.

192 pages | 80 color plates, 55 halftones | 7 1/2 x 9 3/4

Art: Middle Eastern, African, and Asian Art

Asian Studies: East Asia

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"Timely . . . If only all political histories were accompanied by such engaging visual material."

Reena Jana | Bookforum

"Examines the country’s art, architecture, archaeology, and culture with vigor and immediacy. . . . Concise and brilliant."

Richard Byrne | American Prospect

"Fascinating study of the interface between art and politics in North Korea."

John Gittings | The Guardian

"A valuable pioneering work. It contains much information not easily available to the Western reader outside of university libraries, and benefits from the author’s exposure to the North Korean art scene and her conversations with Korean art workers. The generally judicious choice of plates supports the text at ever turn and, in the excellent reproductions, gives a good rendering of the originals. Above all, the dispassionate and knowledgable handling of the material is welcome in a field where comment is largely either adulatory or denigrating."

Susan Pares | Asian Affairs

"Well-illustrated and transparently written, it is a useful introduction to North Korea’s peculiar art world. . . . Portal succeeds in keeping her political distance and avoiding the hyperboles and generalizations so often seen in publications on this country. . . . Art Under Control in North Korea is a very good introduction to the peculiar socio-economic situation of North Korean art and its recent history."

Ken Vos | Museum Anthropology

Table of Contents

1. Art for the State
2. Historical Background
3. Politics and Society since 1953
4. The Kim Cult
5. Archaeology and the Reshaping of History
6. The Production and Consumption of Art
Photographic Acknowledgements

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