Earlier in the year, BTS announced that whilst they were still very much a group of seven, they would each begin focusing on their own solo activities—something that could only be seen as a normal progression, considering the septet’s nine-year hold on the industry. Three months on, it’s clear the move couldn’t have been more timely; one only needs to turn to V’s scintillating appearances during haute couture week in Paris or J-hope’s momentous stage at Lollapalooza 2022, where he performed his recently released solo album. Since then, fans have also been met with enigmatic concept teasers of the other members while Twitter feeds have been set ablaze by the occasional appearance of a member partaking in schedules abroad. But as of late? RM has been the talk of town, making waves for the flurry of art-centric posts that have been filling his Instagram feed.
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To the fans (ARMY), the K-pop group leader’s leanings towards the art and architecture world are hardly unfounded. Before the members each created their Instagram accounts late last year, RM had already been expressing his avid interest in the discipline—carving out time to visit art museums or galleries often during his overseas travels, such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art (MET) in New York or Upper Belvedere in Austria. So when RM started his personal Instagram account, @rkive, it seemed only natural that he would swarm his feed with his visits, creating a literal archive of the selected artworks that caught his eye.
But whilst his gallery trips abroad might demonstrate his leanings towards renowned artists such as Kaws figurines or Roni Horn’s interior installations, the K-pop artist doesn’t hold back on showcasing his fondness towards the art of his own heritage as well, often dedicating entire posts to specific South Korean artists whomst he’s taken a liking to. Recently, he’s even been making sure that credit is attributed where it’s due, weaving the names of the artworks and the artists into his captions or through the photos. This has undoubtedly caught the attention of not just the ARMY, but art enthusiasts as well—who have started to view Seoul as a rising art destination.
For many, RM’s journey and relationship with art is almost endearing, considering it was one that his fans saw him build over the years. In some sense, it can be said that the K-pop star has seemingly made the often-obscured realms of art and design more accessible to the masses, even successfully bringing more eager eyes to South Korean artworks. Below, we delve deeper into RM’s @rkive to learn more about some of the South Korean artists the BTS member has taken a clear interest in.
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During the preparation of The Square: Art and Society 1900–2019 exhibition—that commemorates the 50th anniversary for the opening of the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art—the head exhibition manager, Kang Soojung, cited that she had been influenced by one of BTS’s hidden tracks titled ‘Sea’ during the process of curating the exhibit. This was an endearing response to RM’s personal post on how he had visited the exhibit, standing before one of Lee Ungno’s paintings from his famous Bamboo series. Lee’s artworks are a clear harkening to the traditional motifs of Korean history (such as bamboo), often depicting his work through ink art that is reminiscent of calligraphy.
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It was Joung Young-Ju’s paintings of the Daldongnae or “moon villages”, that had once caught the eye of the K-pop group’s leader. The landscape depicting the poor hillside villages were a heavy contrast to the glorified cityscape of Seoul, evokes a sense of old world charm and nostalgia for many—capturing the sentiments of an East Asian country that has long dealt with sitting in-between years of societal heritage and a post-war era of mass industrialisation. Word of RM’s purchase of one of her paintings had spread back in 2020 after the BTS member had reportedly sent her a photo of the painting on his wall, prior to her full sell-out at the Art Basel in Hong Kong in May last year.
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Yoo Young Kuk
Yoo Young Kuk’s artworks notably feature as part of the more recent roster of @rkive’s posts. Earlier in June, the BTS leader had visited his exhibition at Kukje Gallery, titled “Colours of Yoo Youngkuk”, and has since posted another distinctive portrait of the artist on his Instagram. Yoo sits amongst South Korea’s first generation of abstract artists and many of his paintings since the 1960s often draw focus to the vibrant hues and geometric lines of the beautiful landscapes in the country—most notably the mountain ridges and cross-sectional views of the old villages that dot the history of South Korea.
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Kim Chong-Hak is undeniably one of the most prolific artists to have made a dent in the South Korean art scene. At the beginning of the pandemic, RM had reportedly visited the 85-year old artist’s exhibition at the Busan Museum of Art and left a message in the visitor’s book, thanking the artist for the great ‘Rhythmic Vitality’ exhibition. Kim is known best as the ‘Painter of Seorak’, incorporating the brilliant hues and motifs of nature such as insects, weeds and flowers into his abstract expressions of natural landscapes, most poignantly the third-highest mountain in South Korea: Seorak Mountain.
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If RM isn’t buying the artworks of his favourite artists, he’s collaborating with them to produce even more inspiring pieces of art. For his solo release ‘Bicycle’ that was released in time for BTS’s eighth anniversary in 2021, he reached out to Moon Sung-Sik to work on the cover art for the laidback track. Along with the song release, he commented that he was very much “in love with the artwork which really captures his usual style of sketch.” On the topic of Moon’s art style, one might notice how his pieces are laced with introspection on the seeming beauty of the world—capturing the coexistence of lightness and darkness in our natural landscapes.