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CONNECT, BTS: Korean boyband team up with Serpentine in world-wide free art project

Evening Standard logo Evening Standard 14/1/2020 Robert Dex
J-Hope, Rap Monster posing for the camera © Provided by Evening Standard

POP art is coming to the Serpentine courtesy of the world’s biggest boyband.

Korean stars BTS have teamed up with the Kensington Gardens gallery as part of a major art project spanning the globe.

The seven piece band, who have topped charts around the world and count their fans in an army of millions, are putting on free art shows in five cities from New York to Seoul.

They said the London work, a digital recreation of an ancient forest, was part of an attempt “to return the great amount of love and support from our fans”.

Visitors to the work called Catharsis, by Danish artist Jakob Kudsk Steensen, will find themselves seeing everything from the trees’ underground roots to the view from the forest canopy high in the sky as it changes under the effects of sunlight and wind.

BTS, who took their name from a Korean expression Bangtan Sonyeondan meaning Bulletproof Boy Scouts, started out in 2013 playing hip-hop but have increasingly found mainstream success becoming the first K-pop band to play the American Music Awards and getting the first Korean language album to number one in the UK.

The band said they wanted the project, called CONNECT, BTS, to bring together artists and curators from all over the world.

They said: “We speak different languages and come from multiple cultural backgrounds and have lived through unique life experiences.

“Contemporary art and music are also two different worlds. This project is especially meaningful to us because it truly represents diversity and creates a collective, positive message for the world that we value.”

All the works will be able to be seen online and visitors to the shows can access special introductory videos recorded by the band talking about the individual artwork.

Among the 22 artists involved is Angel of the North sculptor Antony Gormley who will create a “drawing in space” on Brooklyn Bridge in New York using up to 18km of aluminum tubing that loops around and turns in on itself,

Curator Daehyung Lee, who has overseen the whole project, said the Serpentine work bridged “the physical and digital worlds” to create “an environment through which viewers can redefine their relationship to nature”.

He likened the group’s international success and “ability to speak meaningfully to people of different cultural backgrounds” to modern art’s attempts to “transcend imagined boundaries”,

He said: “Picture a concert with thousands of fans moving in unison, each in their own world yet part of a collective experience. Amplified across five cities, riding the momentum of the group’s following, creative effort gains new publics, new dimensions, on which we might be borne along into a new era. It will be quite a ride.”

Catharsis is at the Serpentine until March 15.

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