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Politics of the Thaw at the Crossroads of Internationalism: North Korea and the Art of Socialist Countries Exhibition in Moscow, 1958-1959

  • Journal of History of Modern Art
  • 2022, (51), pp.191-228
  • DOI : 10.17057/kahoma.2022..51.008
  • Publisher : 현대미술사학회
  • Research Area : Arts and Kinesiology > Art > Arts in general > Art History
  • Received : April 28, 2022
  • Accepted : May 28, 2022
  • Published : June 30, 2022

Young Ji Lee 1

1한국뉴욕주립대학교

Accredited

ABSTRACT

This essay examines how the polemics of the Thaw affected the local and global productions and receptions of socialist realist art by investigating the Art of Socialist Countries Exhibition that opened in Moscow in 1958. This groundbreaking exhibition, which displayed approximately three thousand art pieces from twelve socialist countries in Asia and Europe, provided a panoramic and democratic site where each country’s recent achievements in contemporary art could be seen together from a comparative perspective. During the Thaw, Asian and European socialist countries appropriated the Stalinist tenet of “socialist in content and national in form” to further develop socialist art with national characteristics. Unlike the Stalinist era, which attempted to impose rigid rules and aesthetic principles on socialist realists under Zhdanovism, the age of the Thaw emphasized individuality, peace, diversity, and contemporaneity. Their global promotion resulted partly from criticism by the socialist camp of capitalist countries for the loss of those values. The revised discourse of international socialist realism bolstered the diverse national traditions and national arts of socialist countries as representations of the ideals of the Thaw. In contrast to the assumption that Soviet satellite countries developed their strong national art to obtain cultural autarky from Soviet hegemony, this study argues that the Soviet Union under the Thaw compelled its fraternal countries to celebrate their diverse national arts partly to defend the Eastern bloc from ideological attack by the West.

Citation status

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