Back To Top
Life&Style

'Arttainers' bring diversity to Korean art scene

K-pop musicians and entertainers showcase their talents at art exhibitions

Artist Kwon Ji-an poses in front of her new finger painting series (M.A.P Crew)
Artist Kwon Ji-an poses in front of her new finger painting series (M.A.P Crew)
Artist Kwon Ji-an -- better known as K-pop musician Solbi -- was at the center of attention in the art scene in September with her new finger painting “Palette Garden” fetched 9.2 million won at an auction by Korea’s major auction house, recording the highest price.

“I was fascinated with painting because it was one of the few ways that I could express my feelings freely as an entertainer who is always exposed to people’s eyes. I actually began painting as a means of psychotherapy back in 2014,” Kwon told The Korea Herald on Oct. 27 at Vila Vila Cola in Gyeonggi Province, where her solo exhibition of finger paintings, “Paradise - Capture of the Ordinary,” is taking place. 

Installation view of “Paradise - Capture of the Ordinary” at Vila Vila Cola (Park Yuna/The Korea Herald)
Installation view of “Paradise - Capture of the Ordinary” at Vila Vila Cola (Park Yuna/The Korea Herald)
Over the past years, Kwon has developed her own unique artwork by combining the two different fields -- painting and music -- maintaining her identity as a K-pop musician. Her signature painting performance, “Self-Collaboration,” was created based on the idea that she “paints” music on a canvas: She used her body as a painting tool, expressing anger and scars of a female entertainer on a canvas laid on a stage to an accompanying music.

“I wanted to remember my energy by expressing it on canvas. Music and painting always go hand in hand for me. I want to break the boundary between the two different art fields,” she said. After Kwon’s painting performance was aired on a music show in Korea, she was invited to take part in the 2019 La Nuit Blanche, a major annual art event in Paris last October.

Kwon is not the sole entertainer in Korea expanding into arts. A growing number of artists from different fields, including musicians and actors, are showcasing their talents as painters.

“One’s artistic talent in one field is related to talents in different genres. In some cases, those who are talented in music have potential in painting and vice versa. Popular entertainers are in an environment in which their talent in different genres can be more readily presented. It seems like a natural phenomenon in the contemporary world,” said culture critic Ha Jae-keun. 

Installation view of Mino’s works at Saatchi Gallery in London as part of the exhibition “Korean Eye 2020: Creativity and Daydream” (PCA)
Installation view of Mino’s works at Saatchi Gallery in London as part of the exhibition “Korean Eye 2020: Creativity and Daydream” (PCA)
Mino -- a South Korean rapper and a member of K-pop band Winner whose Korean name is Song Min-ho -- exhibited his five artworks at Saatchi Gallery in London as part of the exhibition “Korean Eye 2020: Creativity and Daydream” from Sept. 30 to Oct. 25, along with artworks by 20 emerging and established contemporary Korean artists.

"South Korea’s popular and cultural exports continue to rise, so, too, has its artistic cachet. Today South Korea is, without a doubt, at the forefront of an exciting era in the arts,” the Parallel Contemporary Art, the exhibition organizer, wrote in a press release. PCA was founded by British art collectors David and Serenella Ciclitira in 2008 to promote globally established and emerging artists by hosting exhibitions at renowned museums. 

Artist Kwon Ji-an performs “Self-Collaboration,” which was aired on a music show ‘KBS Music Bank’ in 2017. (Kwon’s official website)
Artist Kwon Ji-an performs “Self-Collaboration,” which was aired on a music show ‘KBS Music Bank’ in 2017. (Kwon’s official website)
Some art insiders consider Korean entertainers’ move to actively expand their artistic activities to different art fields as a relatively new trend, quickly spreading among young musicians and actors. The emergence of the portmanteau “arttainer,“ in recent years reflects the growing trend.

“I see it as a positive trend because those activities will bring a diversity to paintings and eventually grow the pie of the Korean art industry,” said Lee Soon-shim, director of Gallery Now based in Gangnam-gu, southern Seoul, noting that the Korean art market accounts for less than 1 percent of the global market and needs greater diversity and creativity.

“In the contemporary art world, I think we should focus on the artist’ philosophy and knowledge in the liberal arts rather than arguing whether they were trained at an art school or not,” she said.

As a growing number of entertainers and musicians present works as painters, some call for caution, arguing that their artworks should not be identified with their popularity as celebrities.

“Especially in the case of celebrities, many fans will support whatever they do,” said Chung Joon-mo, the director of the Korea Art Authentication and Appraisal Research Center. “It is essential for anyone who wants to be a professional artist to go through some evaluation with critique about aesthetic impression, creativity, originality et cetera for their works.”

By Park Yuna (yunapark@heraldcorp.com)  
MOST POPULAR