Twice, North and South Korea from different viewpoints – Partnership between Kunstmuseum Bern and Swiss Alpine Museum

Kunstmuseum Bern

Mengbo Feng Two Great White Sharks, 2014
Mengbo Feng Two Great White Sharks, 2014
Aquarell auf Chinapapier Sigg Collection © the artist

In 2021 the Kunstmuseum Bern and the Swiss Alpine Museum are addressing the subject of Korea in two new exhibitions. A partnership between the two institutions emphasizes their complementary perspectives. The public is able to enjoy the benefit of a joint range of events and tickets.

The exhibition 'Border Crossings' - North and South Korean Art from the Sigg Collection' in the Kunstmuseum Bern allows the public a close look at the Korean Peninsula, divided since 1953. A 250-kilometre border of barbed-wire fences and antitank barriers divides Korea into two states which could not be more different from one another. Equally divergent is the art produced simultaneously in the two countries.

The North fosters a socialist-realist tradition of painting, while in the South a vital contemporary art examines the irreconcilability of the two political systems and the lived reality of the population. In the exhibition, the contrasting world-views engage in a dialogue with one another and invite the public to approach Korea's history as well as its present. Selected works from the Sigg Collection form the starting-point of the exhibition and set visitors on a journey through Korean art from the 1970s until the 2010s. During his time as Swiss ambassador to China, Uli Sigg was also ambassador to North Korea (1995 - 1998). This gave him both a profound insight into North Korean reality and the unique opportunity to acquire works from the local Mansudae Art Academy.

'Let's talk about mountains. A filmic approach to North Korea' is the name of the coming main exhibition of the Swiss Alpine Museum (from 20 February 2021). During the brief phase of the central Korean thaw (2018-19), a film team from the Museum travelled around the mountainous Korean peninsula and sought dialogue with local people. They climbed to mountain peaks with hiking groups, attended school classes, observed artists at work, travelled to agricultural businesses in the hilly provinces and stopped off in the biggest ski resort in the tourism development one in the south-east of North Korea. Several hours of film material and over forty interviews - both spontaneous and arranged encounters - are the basis of what is currently a unique kind of film exhibition. It shows micro-stories from everyday life which do not appear in the television news, and gives a voice to people who threaten to disappear behind the political system. To coincide with the exhibition there is a magazine that goes beneath the content of the film images and fleshes it out.

To enlarge upon the themes of the exhibition the Kunstmuseum Bern and the Swiss Alpine Museum are holding a joint programme of events. Other partners include Asia Society Switzerland, Politforum Bern and the Kino REX Bern. From the opening of the exhibition, up-to-date information can be found on the respective websites of the two museums. Visitors to each institution are also offered reduced ticket prices to the other.



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