Buying Propaganda Art in Shanghai

Blain Crellin

Travel to North Korea is off-limits to most Americans. But Shanghai now has two places to buy the ultimate Pyongyang memento: propaganda posters created by students at the capital city’s university. Kommune, a café and wine bar in Shanghai’s French Concession, has some 40 different hand-painted posters, and Oneinabillion, a whitewashed gallery space just down the street, has a series of lithographed reproductions. “For me, the draw of propaganda art has always been the simplicity of bold blocks of color,” says Kirk Jobsz, the Australian entrepreneur who owns Kommune and founded the gallery two years ago. On a trip to Pyongyang in 2006, with his partner and two daughters, he discovered and discreetly purchased his first batch of posters—which, he points out, aren’t considered pieces of art by the North Korean government. He’s been exporting them ever since, although now he stays at home with his kids while an associate gets the goods. Among the current beauties is one of a woman tending to her chickens and pigs, which reads in Korean, “Grow more pigs and hens in every house!” and another of gun-toting soldiers that says, “Fully prepare for fighting against the aggressive imperialists to the end!” Lithographs start at $70 (Oneinabillion, 201 Taikang Rd., no. 101; 86-136/0192-7777) and hand-painted posters at $500 (Kommune, 201 Taikang Rd., no. 7). Jobsz can be e-mailed at