Kim Namjoon, better known as RM (short for “Rap Monster”) and founding member of mega-popular Korean band BTS, is just as adept at art galleries as he is stomping tracks. The K-Pop star’s artistic adventures began when he toured the American Midwest in 2018, he recently told Art Basel director Marc Spiegler on the “Intersections” podcast. (RM also told Spiegler that he reads Artnet every morning, so hello RM!)
At the time, the singer found himself alone in a hotel room in Chicago. He didn’t make many friends abroad and didn’t party much, so he went to visit the Art Institute of Chicago, where he fell in love with Seurat and Monet.
Since then, fans have literally followed the steps of RM’s artistic trek via Instagram via the Getty in Los Angeles, the Metropolitan Museum in New York and the Chinati Foundation in Marfa, Texas. They also jet-set with him in Basel, where he promoted the arts and culture of his home country on the world stage, and jumped with him between galleries, museum openings and fairs in through Korea. To celebrate its 26th anniversary in 2020, RM donated over $80,000 to the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art of South Korea.
Even his first name, Kim Namjoon, has become a verb, with fans taking part in his art-loving habits and calling him “Namjooning.”
And in just a few short years, RM has amassed a nuanced collection. He also announced plans to open his own private exhibition space, complete with a cafe on the first floor, one day.
So far, RM’s collection has focused on Korean artists and Impressionism, with a strong contemporary art twist. And as BTS takes a break and RM embarks on its next chapter as a patron of the arts, it yearns to emulate the reinvention and endurance of its artistic idols, like Phillip Guston and Donald Judd. Here are some of the other artists the Korean collector admires enough to own.
On “Intersections,” Spiegler asked RM what was the first piece of art he ever bought. RM said it bought an ethereal, untitled painting by the late Korean artist Lee Daewon at auction, calling it simply “a small mountain painted in 1976.” RM considers this first acquisition as a spiritual experience: “When I installed it on my wall, I understood what makes a collection [versus] filling the walls,” he told Spiegler.
Lee Seung Hyun
Fans who can’t follow RM in the flesh are documenting his moves online. In March 2020, an account tweeted that RM probably purchased a modestly sized oil on canvas titled Campaign printing by Lee Seunghyun at the Galleries Art Fair in 2020 for just over $1,000. Featuring RM in the gallery booth alongside his pup Moni, the tweet posits that RM “probably bought it there because of the name sticker; they do it when a painting is sold.
Joung Young Ju
In spring 2020, RM also acquired Disappearance of hometown 730, a luminescent landscape by Joung Young Ju. The contemporary Korean artist depicts traditional hillside villages, which have disappeared due to urban development. She makes their roofs, doors, and stars above using traditional hanji paper. EconoTimes said RM purchased the 120-inch acrylic artwork for $42,330. Young Ju took to Instagram to thank him. “I had such a great time with such a respectful and brilliant young man,” she wrote, according to Koreaboo. “He gave me strength during the difficult times we are going through now.”
The New York Times just posted an interview with RM envisioning the musician’s artistic explorations through the lens of his upcoming 30th birthday and the end of his viability as a boy band frontman. The post took a look at the work that RM collects, including a “Companion” piece from KAWS. But it is not the only work of the artist that he owns. In 2020, RM was also illustrated holding a small chrome “Companion”.
The time the exploration in RM’s studio also featured a rich patchwork of smaller pieces by mostly Korean artists, including Suh Seung-Won, Yun Hyong-keun, and Park Soo Keun, as well as Swiss artist Ugo Rondinone. But Japanese legend Takashi Murakami crowns the quilt, with his ubiquitous flower ball beaming on the wall. Like KAWS, owning a Murakami is a status symbol, even though it is a culturally rich symbol. RM isn’t afraid to flex both arms at once.
Kim Chong Hak
Korean artist Kim Chong Hak also appears on RM’s studio wall in this Time profile. However, a tour of RM’s art collection posted in January 2022 by a user of US site All K Pop shows that RM has more Kim Chong Hak works in his home. According to the 85-year-old artist’s biography, Kim often draws inspiration from the natural world in his paintings, including Mount Seorak, Korea’s third highest mountain, located in the east of the country, as well as motifs such as flowers, insects, and weeds.
London-based French illustrator Thibaud Hérem showcased his latest works alongside his alleged new owner in an April 2022 Instagram post. “Herem x RM,” the caption reads simply. “Cherry Blossom Bunjae.” Fans have since wondered if the BTS star commissioned the artwork directly from the artist. With nearly 120,000 likes, this is by far the most engaged post on Hérem’s feed, an example of the outsized impact that RM’s magic touch can have.
Kim Hee Soo
And that touch can translate into real money. When the KBizoom website reported rumors that RM was collecting Kim He-Soo’s work, it sent the Contemporary Cubist painter’s sales skyrocketing to Art Bursan in 2022, where he reportedly sold “121 pieces within 3 hours. following the opening”. While we need to see the receipts to believe those numbers, a definitive acquisition came in January 2021, when RM gifted friend and fellow singer Colde a canvas by the artist.
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