Two Norwegian artists are opening an art academy in North Korea

Better than this.
Better than this.
Image: AP Photo/Ng Han Guan
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In early July, two Norwegian artists traveled to Pyongyang on an unusual mission: to lay the groundwork for an international art academy in the world’s most secretive, repressive country. And they apparently won the support of the North Korean government for their idea, according to a report in the Art Newspaper.

The artists, Henrik Placht and Morten Traavik, intend to call the school DMZ, after the demilitarized zone separating North from South Korea.

The pair plan to bring international as well as local artists to exhibit and teach at the academy. The school is meant primarily for North Koreans, but it would host exchange students as well. “It’s a bridge from Pyongyang to the outside world,” Placht told Norway’s NRK Newspaper.

The school would be supported in part by the Prince Claus Fund.

Traavik already has contacts with the North Korean government thanks to two earlier projects, including one in which Norwegian soldiers acted as “human pixels” as North Koreans directed their movements with flags.

As to whether opening an art school would serve as cultural cover for a regime built on massive human rights abuses, the artists argue that more openness is a worthy goal on its own. “One of the reasons for us going to North Korea is that we don’t believe in sanctions and the boycott of art,” Placht told the Art Newspaper.