First came K-cinema, then K-pop and K-TV. Now South Korea’s young stars are conquering the world with K-art. But what do their dark visions say about their nation’s psyche – and ours?
Ohnim is having a blue period, just like Picasso. Over Zoom from a gallery in Seoul, the Korean rapper Song Min-ho, better known as Mino to K-pop fans but Ohnim in the art world, shows me a painting he finished the previous evening in collaboration with artist Choi Na-ri. It depicts a blue crouched figure, like a depressed version of Rodin’s Thinker. It may be still wet but will soon be shipped to London’s Saatchi Gallery for an art fair that showcases work by three of Korea’s biggest K-pop stars.
The meeting of K-pop and K-art is making the art world lick its lips. Businessman David Ciclitira, who set up the StART Art Fair at the Saatchi, says: “K-pop stars have immense reach through their social media. Guys like Mino, Henry Lau and Kang Seung-yoon, whose work will be in the show, have six to seven million followers each on Instagram. In Seoul, fans queue round the block just to see a work of art by any of them. Then they fight each other to buy. I don’t suppose it’ll be quite like that at the Saatchi Gallery, but you never know.”