Koryo Studio is the first Western art gallery to commission, exhibit and sell work by artists living and working in North Korea (DPRK). Founded in 1993 to display a collection of rare DPRK film posters, the Koryo group opened its first gallery nine years later in Beijing, China. The gallery – and its attached studio – is unique in its approach:
commissioning new work from North Korean artists rather than simply buying pieces directly from the DPRK’s studios.
This exclusive way of working means that North Korea’s artists are given the space and time necessary to produce art inspired by briefs set by Koryo Studio’s founder Nicholas Bonner. This differs significantly from the mundane and repetitively themed works that these artists’ own studios dictate – it frees them from the limitations and proscriptions of North Korea’s constrained art world and gives them unparalleled latitude to experiment and develop.
Koryo Studio has shown its collections with both international public and privateorganisations, including major exhibitions at the Asia-Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art in Brisbane, Australia, as well as at the Venice Biennale of Architecture, in a show that won the Golden Lion. Film and video work also includes three award-winning documentaries.
Koryo Studio also works with international artists, photographers and filmmakers to produce exceptional and unprecedented pieces made in and about North Korea.
These projects aim to break down long-held barriers related to working within the country as well as challenge unthinking Western stereotypes and narratives. In this way, these DPRK-focused works from leading international creatives seek to shed light on one of the world’s most isolated countries and further inform a global audience while continuing the conversation between North Korea’s artists and the rest of the world, thereby providing much-needed engagement and understanding.