The Koryo Studio co-curated exhibition ‘Made in North Korea: Graphics from Everyday Life in the DPRK’ (메이드인조선) in Seoul at the Hongik University Daehangno Arts Center.
‘Made in North Korea’ displays everyday graphics of consumer products, posters, and ephemera from the collection of Koryo Studio & Koryo Tours‘ founder Nicholas Bonner. The exhibition was originally held in London at the House of Illustrations and based on a recent book, also titled Made in North Korea (Phaidon Press, 2018), written by Bonner.
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It uncovers the fascinating and surprisingly beautiful graphic culture of North Korea – from packaging to hotel brochures, luggage tags to tickets for the world-famous mass games; Bonner’s extensive collection of North Korean graphic design are a result of his decades of engagement with the country. The collection was published by Phaidon, including eight short essays written by Koryo General Manager Simon Cockerell.
When Bonner started visiting North Korea, his eye was caught by the strikingly attractive graphic designs which adorned everything from the intricately decorated sugar sachets presented alongside a coffee on an Air Koryo flight, to the cheerfully painted rows of pink peaches livening up an otherwise plain tin of fruit. Bonner started collecting these snatches of frivolity, which represent a surprising contrast to a country known for its brutalist buildings and intimidating military propaganda.
After decades of visiting the country and gathering these examples, Bonner had amassed the most comprehensive collection of this little known anomaly in graphic design history. Partnering with Phaidon ensured this collection would reach a wider audience.