K-pop art: BTS team up with Antony Gormley for global project

Mark Brown Arts correspondent
Photograph: Adrian Dennis/AFP via Getty Images

They are clean-cut superstars of K-pop, arguably the most adored boyband in the world, and now BTS can add a new label: global patrons of contemporary art.

Details were announced on Tuesday of experimental and technically challenging art projects in London, Seoul, New York, Berlin and Buenos Aires by artists and curators who, the people behind the project said, resonated with the band’s philosophy and principles.

It will involve Antony Gormley installing a sculpture using 18km of coiled up aluminium tubing next to the East River in Brooklyn and Tomás Saraceno floating a human being upwards powered only by the sun and air.

With a global fanbase of tens of millions of young people, together known as the BTS Army, the idea is seen as an opportunity to introduce contemporary art to completely new audiences.

Daehyung Lee – the curator who helped conceive the Connect, BTS initiative and approached the band – said the project was rooted in the idea of “solidarity”. He said: “We can connect with people at opposite ends of the world but we sometimes forget to communicate with our own neighbours or relatives. We are losing solidarity, we have forgotten how to communicate properly with each other.”

The Korean band are the main funders of the projects which will involve 22 artists and take place across the world in the coming months. While the figure has not been disclosed, Lee said it did not run into the millions of pounds.

“The ultimate goal of the project is to connect individuals across the world as they re-evaluate their present circumstances, attitudes and potentialities.”

Visitors clamber through Clearing by Antony Gormley at the Royal Academy in London. Photograph: Nils Jorgensen/Rex/Shutterstock

Gormley will make a version of an installation titled Clearing which featured at his recent show at the Royal Academy in London and consisted of 7km of metal rod coiled up like a drawing in space.

New York Clearing 2020 will use more than double the length of metal rod, and will be installed outdoors and barrier-free at Brooklyn Bridge Park Pier 3 with people invited to walk through it.

“Clearing has always been made inside an existing architectural space,” Gormley said. “We still don’t know whether this is going to work. We still don’t know whether, in the wind and the cold of New York in January, this will hold. But what an incredible thing … and with BTS’s help we are going to try to make this thing.”

The Argentinian artist Saraceno will make a project titled Fly With Aerocene Pacha which he said was a possible solution to the dilemma of human flight, a dream which had become a nightmare.

“Every time someone travels across the Atlantic by aeroplane another person’s lifespan is reduced by two years.”

The Danish artist Jakob Kudsk Steensen (R) sits in front of a monitor livestreaming BTS during the announcement of his new work Catharsis at the Serpentine. Photograph: Adrian Dennis/AFP via Getty Images

In London, the Danish artist Jakob Kudsk Steensen has created a digital simulation of a forest. Titled Catharsis, it can be experienced at the Serpentine Gallery or via catharsis.live until 15 March.

The initiative was announced at the Serpentine with a live video link to the seven boyband members giving their support and expressing their desire to “send a positive message to the world” and “give back some of the amazing love that we receive”.

The project “represents diversity and creates a collective, positive message for the world that we value”, they said.