Cover Here are some of BTS’ RM’s favourite artists (Photo: @bts_twt/Twitter)

The pop group leader often shares his love for art on social media. In honour of his birthday on September 12, we break down some of his favourite artists

It’s common knowledge among BTS fans that the group’s leader RM (aka Kim Namjoon) is a certified art aficionado. He made headlines when he made a 100 million Korean won domination to South Korea’s National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art and frequently shares photos of himself visiting museums and galleries. He has been praised by the Korean art industry for re-energising the country’s art scene.

The rapper is also using his love of art to influence his fans to visit museums, support artists particularly those from South Korea, and to just appreciate art in general. His art adventures have been dubbed as “Namjooning”, a word he himself coined that covers taking time for yourself by doing activities such as visiting art exhibitions, cycling, going on nature walks and reading.

In celebration of the art-loving BTS leader’s birthday on September 12, we break down some of his favourite artists.

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Seeing an idol singer relentlessly following Korean art, I thought that the Korean art world is not stripped of its future
Lee Seung-hyun, artistic director at Jeongdong 128 Art Centre

1. Joung Young-ju

RM made headlines when he purchased a painting by the artist Joung Young-ju, known for her unique cityscapes, often of villages at night. RM seems to have been captivated by her stunning work, buying her painting Disappearing Hometown 730 for about 50 million Korean won (US$43,000).

The artist is praised for her use of traditional Korean mulberry paper, or hanji, and is fast rising on the international scene after one of her works was displayed at the Albemarle Gallery in London. RM and Joung met at Gallery Sun in Seoul earlier this year where the painting was being exhibited and where the rapper told her he wanted to buy her painting.

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2. Yun Hyong-keun

When RM was in Venice, Italy, he visited Yun Hyong-keun’s exhibition and even bought a book on the artist. The rapper has also listened to an album by saxophonist Kim Oki, which was inspired by Yun’s work.

Several reports state that RM owns a few paintings by the artist, although the exact pieces are not known. Yun has also held exhibtions of his work in Seoul and New York—and RM also visited those shows.

RM notes that Yun’s work changes depending on how old he was when he painted a particular piece. As a Dansaekhwa artist, Yun is known for his use of monochrome, although he painted bright abstract works during his earlier years.

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3. J.M.W Turner

BTS fans were abuzz when RM revealed during the group’s appearance on BBC1 Live Lounge that one of his favourite artists is J.M.W Turner. The English Romantic painter is well-known for his expressive and imaginative landscapes.

RM added that he visited London’s National Gallery during the group’s Love Yourself tour and described it as a “dream come true”. He posted a photo in front of the gallery’s entrance and on the viewing deck overlooking Trafalgar Square.

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4. Lee Ufan

When RM visited the Busan Museum of Art, he left a message in the visitor’s book: “Mr Lee, I like the wind.” The rapper was referring to artist Lee Ufan’s Wind series, his most iconic works from the 1980s, where he started moving away from his style of points and lines and focused more on places and elements.

Lee is a minimalist painter, sculptor and academic who contributed to the Korean Monotone Art movement and founded the avant-garde group, Mono-ha (School of Things). He continues to be one of the most celebrated Korean artists today.

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5. Kim Whanki

RM also posted several photos with Kim Whanki’s works including Ladies and Jar, An Eternal Song and Where, in What Form, Shall We Meet Again? 16-Ⅳ-70 #1661970. During a live session with his fans, he also showed a book related to the artist called Works on Paper, as well as a photo from another book that shows Kim’s work, Apricot Flower and Pot.

During an interview with GQ Magazine, the group was asked about their style heroes. RM said that his fashion style is inspired by two Korean artists, one of whom is Kim. The artist is known for his use of naturalistic motifs and thick brushstrokes, and is considered a pioneer of abstract art in South Korea.

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6. Thibaud Hérem

RM loves the work of French illustrator Thibaud Hérem so much that he even commissioned the artist to draw him a custom piece. Hérem revealed the piece on his Instagram—a blossoming cherry bonsai tree that the BTS rapper owns. Hérem said this is the first time he had been asked to create a large-scale bonsai illustration.

RM owns another work by Hérem which he bought at an exhibition of the artist’s drawings at the Albus Gallery in Seoul. Hérem’s work has been featured in campaigns on the London Underground as well in various magazines.

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7. Kim Chong-hak

Kim Chong-hak is another one of RM’s favourite artists as he paid a visit to Kim’s exhibition at the Busan Museum of Art. The museum revealed that the rapper also left a message in the visitor’s book, saying he hoped “we can overcome this hard time together” by seeing the artist’s works.

Kim is an important figure in South Korea’s contemporary art scene and is known as the “Painter of Seorak” for his various piecess depicting or taking inspiration from Mount Seorak, the third-highest mountain in South Korea. He’s also well-loved for his nature motifs such as flowers, insects and birds.

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8. Lee Ungno

RM introduced Lee Ungno’s Bamboo series online, telling his fans to visit the exhibition at the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art. He also added that he loves the artist’s People series. Kang Soo-jung, an exhibition manager at the museum, revealed that while she was preparing for the 50th-anniversary exhibition, she was greatly influenced by the BTS song, Sea, after hearing her daughter play it.

Lee is one of the first artists to recognise the importance of protecting the essence of the Korean painting tradition while incorporating western motifs. He is considered as one of the most important Asian painters of his time, being at the crossroads of both east and west. The artist also has a museum dedicated to him in Daejeon.

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9. Moon Sung-sik

BTS fans know RM loves cycling, so much so that he even recorded a song called Bicycle as a gift to fans for the group’s eighth anniversary. The artwork for the solo release is from the artist Moon Sung-sik. RM says that the artwork from Moon “really captures his usual style of sketch”.

Moon is known for his focus on nature, especially flowers. He was the youngest artist to exhibit at the Korean Pavillion in the 2015 Venice Biennale.

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10. Kwon Dae-sup

As well as paintings and illustrations, RM is a fan of ceramics. One of his favourite artists is Kwon Dae-sup, as seen when he uploaded a photo of himself with one of Kwon’s moon jars, with his arm wrapped around it.

Kwon is known as a master of Korean aesthetics, and his moon jars—which was originally made in the late Joseon period—are an iconic symbol of artform in Korea. The jars are known for their smooth white curves.

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