Pete Kirill vs. the dictator Kim Jong-il. Pop-art

Pete Kirill vs. the dictator Kim Jong-il. Pop-art
Isabel del Rio

Pete Kirill vs. the Korean dictator Kim Jong-il

Kim Jong-il (1941 or 42 – 2011)

Pete Kirill. Kim Jong-il

Pete Kirill. Kim Jong-il

From 1994 to 2011, he was the supreme (really supreme) leader of North Korea. He succeeded his father, as if he were a king, and among other important positions (more or less all of the important positions of his country), he was the supreme commander of the North Korean People’s Army, the fourth largest army in the world.

A discreet man, who amended North Korea constitution in April 2009 to refer to him as “The Supreme Leader”, “Dear Leader”, “Our Father”, or “The General”.

In 2010, Kim Jong-il, this discreet ruler, was ranked 31st in Forbes Magazine’s List of the World Most Powerful People.

One year later, Kim Jong-il died and he was succeeded by his son (what a surprise!): Kim Jong-un. Another discreet man, who proclaimed his birthday a public holiday and who named himself “The Eternal General Secretary of the Workers’ Party of North Korea” and “The Eternal Chairman of the National Defense Commission” (what a family!!!).

Yes, a family and a man who have drawn Pete Kirill’s attention. This neo Pop artist has studied the complex possibilities and associations from within and without the culture surrounding a man, rendered as a deity by his own ruling elite. Funny? Sometimes is good to ironize about tragic circumstances to arrive at the truth or, at least, to rebel against people who take themselves seriously, with the insane gravity of an old-fashioned god of Olympus.

His pop paintings Kim Jong-rodman and Kim Jong Ill’n are pieces that depict the North Korean leader as a hip hop artist and NBA

Pete Kirill. Kim Jong-il

Pete Kirill. Kim Jong-il

basketball star, drawing parallels between dictator worship and celebrity idolization. “A communist Dictator Visits Miami” was the amazing name of his last exhibition, when Pete Kirill investigates the possible relationships between communism and capitalism.

In my opinion, Pete Kirill has done a fantastic job. The enigmatic expression of a power-hungry person could have been represented with the Baroque chiaroscuro or with Goya’s black shadows. Then, we will see an old image of an old bloody emperor. However, Kim Jong-il was not a lesson of ancient history, he has been a terrible current dictator and this is what Western Democratic countries must understand. Pete Kirill has chosen a Pop representation (popular art, no more, trying to demystify what should not be sacred) and with talent, he has reflected a modern man who (in Miami) would be another person.

It’s a shame these paintings cannot be exhibited in North Korea: “Supreme” is not “Pop, Popular”, “Supreme” maybe is only the “Art”.


Pete Kirill was born in Mobile, Alabama in 1974. He received his BFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, with a concentration in Fine Art and Design. Kirill began a three-year collaboration with music collective Sin Palabras based in Havana in 2000, drawn from club-inspired techno and timba (Cuban salsa) influences. Kirill’s immersion within a Communist state prompted a continued, focused visual study of infamous dictators and their accompanying cults of personality. Kirill’s first solo exhibition was held at Myra Galleries, Miami in October 2011. Kirill lives and works in Miami.

Pete Kirill. Kim Jong-il

Pete Kirill. Kim Jong-il


Pete Kirill. Kim Jong-il

Pete Kirill. Kim Jong-il

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