North Korean Artist’s Beijing Exhibition Cancelled by Police

Sun Mu, Look at us, which reads "Let us endure hardship with a smile!" Photo: via the Verge.

The mysterious North Korean artist known as Sun Mu has had his exhibition in Beijing cancelled, the Verge reported.

The artist’s controversial paintings satirize North Korean propaganda, and he has to use a pseudonym for personal safety. Before defecting in 1998, Sun Mu was an official state artist. Today his work contains the unique imagery of socialist propaganda alongside ironic or critical texts.

According to Agence France Presse, “official orders” were responsible for the show’s dismantling. Chinese police blocked visitors from entering Beijing’s Yuan Dian gallery, which planned to open the month-long exhibition, titled “Red White Blue,” on July 27. Sun Mu declined to comment on the apparent censorship of his work, telling the AFP that “I need to figure out the situation first.”

Sun Mu, Nothing to be envious in the world (2007). Photo: via artnet.

Sun Mu, Nothing to be envious in the world (2007). Photo: via artnet.

Before fleeing North Korea, Sun Mu went to art school there, studying to create traditional propaganda posters in hopes of joining the government-run Mansudae Art Studio (see artnet News report). Since escaping to Seoul, he has become known as “the faceless painter,” and his artworks reportedly sell for up to $20,000 each.

Following the abortive opening, a note on the gallery’s door read “the exhibition opening has been suspended for some reasons. Thank you for your understanding.” All references to the scuttled show have been removed from the Yuan Dian website.

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