BTS’s RM talks about his growing influence and appreciation of art –

RM, the 27-year-old leader of Korean pop group BTS, has become an avid contemporary art enthusiast, collector and promoter.

In just the past few months, RM has appeared on Crossroads: The Art Basel Podcast, and he and other BTS members collaborated with Google for it show their favorite works of art embedded in Google Street View in the country of their choice.

Last month, ARTnews published a feature detailing the far-reaching impact RM has had on art institutions in the USA using Instagram to showcase major museums like the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC That followed the news that RM and his bandmates would be focusing on solo activities for the foreseeable future.

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As RM embarked on this next phase of his career, the pop star spoke to him ARTnews via email to discuss the growing role of art in his life, how he chooses which exhibitions and institutions to check out, and the difference between visiting museums as RM, the working professional, vs. Kim Namjoon, the individual.

The text below has been edited for length and clarity.

ARTnews: Some people use their Instagram as a kind of journal. What relationship do you have with your Instagram? Is there a specific goal for you?

RM: I think young people these days use their Instagram feed to represent themselves. From the profile presentation, hashtags and pictures they take in a certain location, every detail speaks to who they are and is one of the best platforms for self PR and branding. When I want to know someone, I often look at their source, but I try not to judge a book by its cover.

My Instagram account is literally “just an archive” of myself. I’m sure people are familiar with RM as a public figure on stage… This is an archive for both RM and Kim Namjoon, and I’m also doing it for myself in the future.

AN: How have you incorporated the visual arts into your daily life?

RM: I think the most interesting part is that I tend to interpret nature or simple objects through the “lens of art”. ‘This is a cypress tree in Vincent van Gogh’s paintings’ or ‘This is Giorgio Morandi’s bottle’. Such thoughts come to mind.

AN: What do you think about your influence in the art world?

RM: As one of many art enthusiasts, I just want to visit great exhibitions when I get a chance and share them with people so they can enjoy them too.

BTS's RM talks about growing up

RM of BTS (center) on a tour of the Rothko Chapel in December 2021 with communications and visitor engagement manager Will Davison (left) and director of programming and community engagement Ashley Clemmer (right).

Courtesy of the Rothko Chapel

AN: When you spoke at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York last September, you said you wanted to come back as the human Kim Namjoon again. What is the difference between visiting these institutions like RM vs. Kim Namjoon?

RM: Responsibility comes first in public cases. To simply enjoy the art, I would make a personal visit. I feel happiest when I am at an art exhibition as an individual.

AN: You’ve talked about how going to exhibitions has become part of your new normal and has helped you have a sense of balance. What was it like for you during the pandemic when museums and galleries were closed?

RM: Even during the pandemic, many museums and galleries operated by reservation, so I could visit them for most of the period. However, I felt helpless when some of my favorite places were closed for months, as if I had been a frequent visitor for a long time. It’s incredible how quickly you can adapt to something.

AN: How do you choose where to go? How does it work to choose where to go for something like this road trip After allowing BTS to dance on stage, the residency in Los Angeles changes from deciding what art to see in your daily life in Korea?

RM: I tend to choose an exhibition featuring my favorite artist, or a place I’ve been curious about, eg. The Guggenheim Museum and the Glenstone Museum. In Korea, I visit museums that feature works of art by modern and contemporary Korean artists. When I’m out, I choose based on the space and the artists themselves.

AN: Many of the institutions you visit have works by Korean artists, either permanently or on display during your visit. Is the experience of seeing Korean art while working abroad different from your frequent trips to see Korean art exhibitions in Korea?

RM: I like to think about how different spaces give the artwork a different energy and feel. When looking at works by Korean artists in foreign countries, nationality doesn’t count as much. But I can definitely say that seeing Yun Hyong-keun’s works at the Palazzo Fortuny in Venice and exhibited alongside Donald Judd’s works at the Chinati Foundation left me in awe.

AN: Some of the places you’ve gone to, like the Chinati Foundation in Marfa, Texas, are particularly difficult to visit. Do you have a bucket list, or do you answer where your work takes you?

RM: There are so many museums and private collections run by the world’s best collectors or local communities in the US and Europe that I would love to visit. I guess it depends on how far I can go at the time. But for special places like China, I would always do my best to make it work.

AN: Would you do another art trip like the one after the BTS LA concerts in 2021? Do you have a specific location in mind?

RM: I would like to do it again when I have a chance. I would like to visit places where I have not been before.

AN: When you talk about art, you often discuss the duration, the longevity of a career and the work that an artist goes through. Is there anything about painting and sculpture that seems more permanent or timeless to you than your artistic field?

RM: Music also has staying power when we think of musicians like Beethoven, Bach, the Beatles and Bob Dylan. But I personally feel eternity on a deeper level in another field, unrelated to my profession.

AN: Your extensive knowledge of specific artists and the visual arts in general is constantly on display [when talking to people about your influence on art]. What advice do you have for your fans or others who are interested in learning more about art but don’t know where to start?

RM: I would advise to start by visiting national/public museums or small galleries nearby. When it comes to contemporary art, some people have a harder time because they don’t know how to approach or interpret the works, as the works tend to be more conceptual. (Even I have a hard time sometimes.) But the viewing experience, the taste and the inspirations are all up to the viewers. Once you develop your taste and know what kind of art or artist you like, you’ll have a better eye for spotting them. Additionally, you may gain a deeper understanding of yourself as well. I think this is the most intriguing part of the art.

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