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Meet the K-pop stars taking on the art world

Written by ayunda · 5 min read >

Meet the K-pop stars taking on the art world
t first glance, the three names beside a series of surreal high-contrast paintings, moody black and white photographs and Jackson Pollock-esque splatters might not jump out among over 70 artists appearing at a London art fair next week.
But fans of K-pop may recognize at least one of them: Henry Lau, a Chinese-Canadian singer who rose to fame with South Korean boyband, Super Junior. Reversing another of the artist’s names, Ohnim, meanwhile reveals his identity as rapper Mino, a member of popular K-pop group Winner. His bandmate Kang Seung-Yoon is flying under the radar using the pseudonym Yooyeon.
The three performers have all forged successful careers in South Korea’s burgeoning music industry. Now, they are attempting to crack an even tougher market: the elite world of contemporary art.

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‘I’ve spent almost all my concert earnings on art’: Pop star Jay Chou’s collecting obsession
The trio may not be short of potential buyers when their art goes on show at StART, a five-day fair at London’s Saatchi Gallery. Keen-eyed Winner fans have already offered Mino — who asked to be referred to as Ohnim for this piece — thousands of dollars for one of his original paintings. However, speaking via video call from Seoul, the rapper said he was hesitant about selling his work publicly.
“Tons of my fans keep offering all kinds of prices for a piece, because they’re fans,” he said via a translator. “But I don’t want to do that. I want to actually belong in the art world and it be recognized by critics that my artwork is (worth) a certain price. I don’t want to take advantage of my fans… I have to take care of them.”
Ohnim’s fellow Winner band member and photographer Kang Seung-Yoon, who goes by the artist moniker Yooyeon.
Ohnim’s fellow Winner band member and photographer Kang Seung-Yoon, who goes by the artist moniker Yooyeon. Credit: From YG K Plus/StART Art Global
When StART founder David Ciclitira spoke to Ohnim, Yooyeon and Lau about selling their art, they were at a loss for how to value them — or even whether to sell them at all. (Ciclitira, a prolific collector of Asian art, purchased one of Ohnim’s paintings ahead of the fair, but declined to disclose how much he paid, saying via video call: “They were just so excited that someone wanted to buy something.”) With some persuasion, the musicians compromised and agreed to produce 250 limited-edition prints (signed and priced at $500) for the fair, as well as an affordable range of face masks, mugs and tote bags.
‘Donation of the century’: South Korea unveils late Samsung boss’ 23,000-strong art collection
The popstars’ involvement with StART will undoubtedly attract new eyes to their work — especially in Western markets where they are far from household names. But the relationship is mutually beneficial. Ahead of the fair, they have been excitedly sharing flyers and previewing their art to their millions of followers. In June, Ciclitira organized a Seoul exhibition called Korean Eye 2020: Creativity and Daydream, featuring the trio’s artworks, and K-pop’s pulling power helped it reach a “much bigger audience,” the collector said, adding: “It’s bringing people into art.”
For Ohnim, however, the ultimate goal is having his work appreciated by authoritative industry voices. “I want to really be a true artist,” he said.
Hiding away
With all the trappings of a K-pop star — a gigantic ring glinted on his finger as he fielded questions from behind tinted glasses — Ohnim is not your typical visual artist.
Currently pursuing a solo music career while Winner is on hiatus, he initially began drawing as a hobby. The self-taught 28-year-old, who counts the likes of Gustav Klimt and Egon Schiele among his favorite artists, eventually became “more serious” and transitioned to painting, occasionally posting his art to his 6 million Instagram followers.

t first glance, the three names beside a series of surreal high-contrast paintings, moody black and white photographs and Jackson Pollock-esque splatters might not jump out among over 70 artists appearing at a London art fair next week.
But fans of K-pop may recognize at least one of them: Henry Lau, a Chinese-Canadian singer who rose to fame with South Korean boyband, Super Junior. Reversing another of the artist’s names, Ohnim, meanwhile reveals his identity as rapper Mino, a member of popular K-pop group Winner. His bandmate Kang Seung-Yoon is flying under the radar using the pseudonym Yooyeon.
The three performers have all forged successful careers in South Korea’s burgeoning music industry. Now, they are attempting to crack an even tougher market: the elite world of contemporary art.
‘I’ve spent almost all my concert earnings on art’: Pop star Jay Chou’s collecting obsession
The trio may not be short of potential buyers when their art goes on show at StART, a five-day fair at London’s Saatchi Gallery. Keen-eyed Winner fans have already offered Mino — who asked to be referred to as Ohnim for this piece — thousands of dollars for one of his original paintings. However, speaking via video call from Seoul, the rapper said he was hesitant about selling his work publicly.
“Tons of my fans keep offering all kinds of prices for a piece, because they’re fans,” he said via a translator. “But I don’t want to do that. I want to actually belong in the art world and it be recognized by critics that my artwork is (worth) a certain price. I don’t want to take advantage of my fans… I have to take care of them.”
Ohnim’s fellow Winner band member and photographer Kang Seung-Yoon, who goes by the artist moniker Yooyeon.
Ohnim’s fellow Winner band member and photographer Kang Seung-Yoon, who goes by the artist moniker Yooyeon. Credit: From YG K Plus/StART Art Global
When StART founder David Ciclitira spoke to Ohnim, Yooyeon and Lau about selling their art, they were at a loss for how to value them — or even whether to sell them at all. (Ciclitira, a prolific collector of Asian art, purchased one of Ohnim’s paintings ahead of the fair, but declined to disclose how much he paid, saying via video call: “They were just so excited that someone wanted to buy something.”) With some persuasion, the musicians compromised and agreed to produce 250 limited-edition prints (signed and priced at $500) for the fair, as well as an affordable range of face masks, mugs and tote bags.
‘Donation of the century’: South Korea unveils late Samsung boss’ 23,000-strong art collection
The popstars’ involvement with StART will undoubtedly attract new eyes to their work — especially in Western markets where they are far from household names. But the relationship is mutually beneficial. Ahead of the fair, they have been excitedly sharing flyers and previewing their art to their millions of followers. In June, Ciclitira organized a Seoul exhibition called Korean Eye 2020: Creativity and Daydream, featuring the trio’s artworks, and K-pop’s pulling power helped it reach a “much bigger audience,” the collector said, adding: “It’s bringing people into art.”
For Ohnim, however, the ultimate goal is having his work appreciated by authoritative industry voices. “I want to really be a true artist,” he said.
Hiding away
With all the trappings of a K-pop star — a gigantic ring glinted on his finger as he fielded questions from behind tinted glasses — Ohnim is not your typical visual artist.
Currently pursuing a solo music career while Winner is on hiatus, he initially began drawing as a hobby. The self-taught 28-year-old, who counts the likes of Gustav Klimt and Egon Schiele among his favorite artists, eventually became “more serious” and transitioned to painting, occasionally posting his art to his 6 million Instagram followers.