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How will the art world cope without BTS?

17 June 2022

Introducing Rakewell, Apollo’s wandering eye on the art world. Look out for regular posts taking a rakish perspective on art and museum stories.

Rakewell is devastated to learn of the ‘hiatus’ of BTS, otherwise known as the biggest boy band in the world. Your roving correspondent feels that we have been here before. One Direction, that other pop phenomenon, is still – officially – on hiatus but given the recent insults from Liam Payne and the roaring success of Harry Styles, we are not hopeful of a reunion on stage. BTS, however, is different.

Not only are they the most successful example of the K-Pop music factory, they are vital Korean cultural ambassadors to the world. Like the art world, BTS contains multitudes. Their magnificent ‘sound’ has evolved from hip hop to a much more eclectic variety of notes. Sometimes they even sing undistorted by autotune. This was enough to charm 32 million people to buy their albums.


RM of BTS speaking at the Met in 2021. Photo: Newscom/Alamy Stock Photo

But BTS is so much more than musical success alone. Who else could pose with Joe Biden in the Oval office and guarantee a vast international audience? Who else could appear via video link from Seoul to promote an art project with 22 artists including Tomás Saraceno and Bill Fontana across London, New York, Berlin, Buenos Aires and Seoul? Who else could fill the Serpentine with every arts journalist in London? Who else could be entrusted to donate 21st-century ceramics to the Met? Who else could inspire the children of today with insights such as ‘We have learned to love ourselves, so now I urge you to “speak yourself”’, as they did at the UN General Assembly in 2021?

Rakewell fears there is now a gaping hole in the world of cultural diplomacy. While we dream that One Direction might step into the breach, we realise this is unlikely to happen. What is to be done? Could potential candidates let themselves be known?

Got a story for Rakewell? Get in touch at rakewell@apollomag.com or via @Rakewelltweets.