One of these superstar enthusiasts was a guest curator for Sotheby’s and says he spends 95 percent of his income on art.
When free from producing and performing global chart-toppers, or acting in cult-favorite or award-winning film or television projects, many South Korean celebrities turn to art collecting as a hobby, spending their time and hard-earned money amassing valuable works from artists all over the world. Here are a handful of them.
Lee Jung Jae
Thanks to his remarkable and award-winning roles in television and film in an acting career spanning almost three decades, Jung Jae Lee has cemented his name in South Korea’s entertainment industry. Unknown to many of his fans, though, the 48-year-old actor is an art enthusiast and collector off-screen, a hobby that started about 15 years ago.
The actor has no social media accounts and has never publicly showed his personal collection. He has mentioned in previous interviews, however, some of his favorite artists: Fred Sandback and his minimalist yarn sculptures, drawings, and prints; On Kawara and his conceptual and visual art works; and Jenny Holzer and her neo-conceptual, text-heavy installations.
In his home country, he adores the works of contemporary artists: Jina Park and her surrealist take on scenes from daily life; and Lee Wan and Chosil Kil’s art installations.
His involvement in the creative world also extends to drumming up interest in art. In 2012, he was appointed as a goodwill ambassador of the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art (NMOCA).
Throughout his two-year term, he promoted Korean art to the world through the museum’s many exhibitions and events. He even lent his voice to narrate an art documentary called Contemporary Art, Bury the Boundary, where he shared tips on how to enjoy modern art.
Anyone who listens to K-pop would know that T.O.P., one fifth of the boy band Big Bang, is a respected rapper, singer, and songwriter. Apart from being a musician, however, the 33-year-old, whose real name is Choi Seung Hyun, is also an avid art collector.
He likes to share his favorites through his music. In the artful black-and-white music video for his hit 2013 single, Doom Dada, T.O.P. also shares some of his earlier purchases as a collector including the works of modern designers such as Pierre Jeanneret and Jean Prouvé. In the music reel for Big Bang’s single, Bae Bae, Kohei Nawa’s Deer has also made an appearance.
In his stint as Sotheby’s Hong Kong guest curator for a charity art sale back in 2016, he featured the works of both Western and Asian contemporary artists, which included Kohei Nawa, Teppei Kaneuji, Tomoo Gokita and Park Jina; American postwar icons Andy Warhol, Jean-Michel Basquiat and Keith Haring; and works by Korean masters such as Park Seobo, Lee Ufan, Chung Sanghwa, Paik Nam June, and his great uncle, the late Kim Whanki.
On Instagram, he shares more of what he describes as his “eclectic” taste for art through his still-growing collection of furniture, sculptures, and paintings. It includes mostly loud and colorful abstract works from contemporary artists like Berlin-based painter Rute Merk, and American painters Mark Grotjahn and Jennifer Guidi.
Just how much his whole art collection is worth is unknown, but T.O.P, whose estimated net worth is $23 million, has said in a 2016 interview on Korean reality show Radio Star that he spends at least 95 per cent of his income buying works of art.
Kwon Ji Yong, who also goes by his stage name G-Dragon of the boy band Big Bang, is one of ArtNews’ 50 Art Collectors to Watch of 2019 for a reason.
His $10.4 million penthouse, for instance, not only serves as his residence in Seoul, but also his personal art gallery. The space is brimming with influential works in paintings, furnishing, sculpture, and photography from different decades, as seen in a 10-slide Instagram post.
The first photo shows the dining room, with a Valentin Loellmann One Piece hand-sculpted table and a couple of early 20th century Jean Prouve Standard and Chaise Tout Bouis chairs as key pieces. Just beside the table is a 1958 513 Riflesso storage cabinet designed by Charlotte Perriand. Accessories in the space are Kaws: Holiday Plushies, a Maison Goyard Paris Palace Trunk, and a 2010 middle finger marble statue called L.O.V.E. by Marizzio Catalan.
The living room, as photographed in the second slide, houses some of G-Dragon’s rarest and priciest pieces: a 1994 Ron Arad Bookworm Table, which is only one of only 20 in existence; an extremely rare Man Ray Chess Set; a $209,000 Untitled (Big Yellow Dot) Jonas Wood painting; and a $3.3 million Richard Prince painting called “Millionaire Nurse.”
The home’s hallways display larger artworks like the 2018 Ricardo Passaporte acrylic painting called Exciting Love, a 2016 Untitled oil and enamel painting by Rudolf Stingel, a 2015 painted stone statue named Green Yellow Orange Red Pink Mountain by Ugo Rondinone, and the 1970 Ultrafragola mirror by Ettora Sottsass in white fiberglass but turns pink when illuminated.
With an estimated net worth of $33.2 million, according to The Korean Herald, an art collection this extensive—and expensive—comes as no surprise.
If breaking records or winning awards along with other members of BTS is not in the day’s agenda, Kim Nam Joon, or simply RM, likes to check out exhibits and take home artworks that he wants for personal keeping and appreciation.
While he has not publicly shown his personal collection, it is known that some of the artwork he owns are that of his favorite artists: City-Disappearing Landscape 480 and Disappearing Hometown 730 by Korean painter Yu Joung Young, the latter’s price tag being $42,100; an untitled and possibly commissioned illustration of a blossoming cherry bonsai tree by French illustrator Thibaud Herem; a small Yoshimoto Nara Poindexter piece; and a pair of Jame Jean’s Slingshot statues that, together, cost £11,000 or $15,574.
He also owns numerous Kaws figurines, including a $390, 11.5-inch tall, silver Holiday Space figure. The rest is on display at his studio called Rkive.
Apart from collecting and with a net worth of around $20 million, RM is also keen in supporting efforts that introduce and encourage art appreciation among young people, so much so that in celebration of his 27th birthday, he donated ₩100 million or $90,400 to the National Museum of Modern Contemporary Art.
This funding will be used to reprint books about Korean modern and contemporary art to be distributed to about 400 public libraries and schools throughout the country.
Banner Photo from @xxxibgdrgn on IG