K-pop group Big Bang turn to art to broaden their appeal, a growing trend among singers and actors
- Jim Carrey, Bob Dylan and Edison Chen are just some of the stars of music and film to have branched out by holding art exhibitions
- A Chinese company is helping pop stars to dive into the art world. Could Kanye West and Lady Gaga be next?
When Hong Kong singer-actor Edison Chen Koon-hei staged a solo exhibition at the Ullens Centre for Contemporary Art in Beijing early in 2018, critics questioned whether visitors were actually there to see his art.
Paying little attention to the artworks on display, people were seen either buying Chen’s limited edition merchandise or catching a glimpse of the disgraced star – Chen was embroiled in one of the biggest sex scandals in the history of Hong Kong entertainment industry in 2008 – in the flesh, inside a glass enclosure. The performance installation explored the pressures of living under constant public scrutiny.
Is that art? Perhaps. Chen isn’t alone: an increasing number of pop stars are staging exhibitions to market themselves to fans and the wider public. K-pop band Big Bang, for instance, have a show at the Beijing 789 Art Centre.
“Big Bang 10 The Exhibition: A to Z” is to mark the 10th anniversary of the group. While two-thirds of the touring exhibition features paintings, sculptures and installations made by the five members, a third is devoted to photos, video footage, personal fashion collections and other memorabilia that appeal to hard-core fans.
The show is a collaboration between YG Entertainment, which manages Big Bang, and art consultancy company Cash Art. Theo Xue Junhao, the 27-year-old founder of Cash Art – based in the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen – says an art exhibition can alter public perceptions of pop bands, which are often portrayed negatively by the media for their hard-partying lifestyles.
“I want to show another side of pop stars – their artistic side,” he says.
Xue says Big Bang’s lead singer Kwon Ji-yong, better known by his stage name G-Dragon, is a serious artist who has collaborated with South Korean and American artists in the past.
“We feature several pieces of his [work] in our exhibition. In collaboration with South Korean contemporary artist Kijong Zin, G-Dragon used 3D printers to make a diorama showing the vicissitudes of humans’ lives,” he says.
“The sculpture he made with South Korean artist Osang Gwon portrays [how G-Dragon views the forces of good and evil]. Inspired by hip hop, he also made a painting with South Korean artist Donghyun Son which features portraits of Kanye West and other hip-hop stars.”
Xue adds that all the members of Big Bang participated in curating the show: “There is a section showing how the five members made artworks out of pictures taken of them by their photographer.”
Other singers who have recently dabbled in art include American music legend Bob Dylan, whose collection “Mondo Scripto” was on show at London’s Halcyon Gallery until last week. It included the singer-songwriter’s hand-written lyrics accompanied by original pencil drawings.
Last year, Canadian master actor-comedian Jim Carrey staged his first solo exhibition, “Sunshower”, at the Signature Gallery Group’s Las Vegas venue after six years of painting. When Signature last year released I Needed Color, a six-minute documentary showing the comedian at work in his studio, viewers were surprised by his artistic talent. The actor has done so much work in his studio at home, it resembles a museum.
Xue set up Cash Art three years ago. A film graduate from the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts, Xue says he is in talks with artists including Kanye West and Lady Gaga for possible future collaborations similar to the Big Bang exhibition, which has already been to Shanghai and Taipei. After its Beijing run, the show will move to Shenzhen, Hong Kong and Thailand (dates and venues are yet to be announced).
“I first got the idea of showcasing the artistic creations of pop stars two years ago when I went to a Sotheby’s exhibition in Hong Kong where artworks made by Big Bang member Choi Seung-hyun, better known as T. O. P [were on display],” says Xue.
“While the public just focused on his persona as an entertainment superstar, no one paid attention to his artistic side. More [Chinese] singers are branched out into the art [world]. In 2016, singer-songwriter Chris Li Yuchun teamed up with Chinese-American fashion designer Alexander Wang to design a collection of costumes for her concerts.
“Singer-songwriter Ashin Chen from Taiwanese band Mayday jointly set up a youth fashion brand, StayReal, with Taiwanese illustrator Chen Boliang, also known as No2Good, in 2007,” he says.
Xue says such crossover productions between pop stars and artists can arouse youngsters’ interest in art: “Such visual artistic productions featuring pop stars can attract young people who might not naturally come to art.”
“Big Bang 10 the Exhibition A to Z” is being held at 789 Art Centre of Beijing's 798 Art District until February 24.