On January 18, the Centre for the Study of Korea of the Asian Institute at the Munk School of Global Affairs, in collaboration with the University of Toronto Art Centre will open the first exhibition of North Korean art to be shown in Canada, North Korean Images At Utopia’s Edge. The display of these works, little known and little seen outside North Korea, creates an unparalleled and vital cultural experience for students, while also performing significant outreach to the wider community in Toronto. The twenty-four colourful prints depicting visions of daily life in the Democratic People’s Republic were produced over the past three decades. Contented working men and women, harmonious families and plenteous landscapes together suggest the importance of work to the utopian imagination in North Korea.

The Centre for the Study of Korea is excited to be involved in presenting At Utopia’s Edge, explains Assistant Professor Janet Poole, because it offers a rare opportunity to consider how artists in North Korea represent their own ideal society. She underlines that “the relationship between the state and artists in North Korea is complicated and artists may not be free to paint something outrageous, something that criticised the state for example, but that doesn’t mean their creations are necessarily those of the state and not their own. In Canada it is hard to see beyond the images of a militaristic and enigmatic state, this exhibition expands the parameters of what might be considered things North Korean: into the realms of work, art and utopian dreams.”

Expanding knowledge is also a goal of the Korea Society, the show’s organizer. Since 2003 the Society has presented innovative exhibitions to encourage a deeper understanding ofKoreaand Korean culture in theUnited States. More recently they have launched a North American travelling exhibition program to highlight Korean history, culture, religion and contemporary issues.Jinyoung Kim, Gallery Director of the Korea Society goes on to say “that with this exhibition the Society hopes to create many small ripples that will multiply and combine to become a larger wave of appreciation and understanding ofKorea(both South and North) and its culture, kindling curiosity and encouraging further explorations.”

With this exhibition the Centre for the Study of Korea and UTAC offer important, tangible support to the University’s academic mission. A wealth of public programming organized in conjunction with At Utopia’s Edge will bring more information and ways to engage with the art and ideas presented in this exciting show.

WHAT: North Korean Images at Utopia’s Edge art exhibition

WHERE: University of Toronto Art Centre

15 King’s College Circle

WHEN: The media is invited to the opening reception January 19, 4:00 – 6:00 p.m.

Exhibition runs January 18 – March 19