BTS are opening up the art world to a whole new audience, says Sir Antony Gormley


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Sir Antony Gormley has praised BTS for bringing a new audience to the “self-serving” art world as he unveiled an installation in New York in collaboration with the South Korean boyband. 

The London artist’s sculpture, which opens today in Brooklyn Bridge Park, is formed of 11 miles of continuous looping aluminium tubing.

New York Clearing, which Sir Antony describes as a “drawing in space”, is part of Connect, BTS, a global project involving 22 artists that is sponsored by the seven-member group. As well as New York, it spans Berlin, Buenos Aires, Seoul and London, where Danish artist Jakob Kudsk Steensen has created a digital forest at the Serpentine Gallery. 

Sir Antony, 69, told the Evening Standard at a preview: “The fact is that the art world is a very self-serving and certainly insular world in which maybe individual freedom is traded to the highest bidder. And I am really interested in BTS’s offering of this bridge to a whole new, you could say, audience for the art of our time. I think that’s great.”

Since the band’s creation in 2013, BTS stars RM, Jin, Suga, J-Hope, Jimin, V and Jungkook have topped charts around the world and attracted millions of fans.  

Sir Antony, however, had never heard of the group until he got a call in November inviting him to participate in their project. “I didn’t know anything about the whole K-pop phenomenon, but I’ve done a very quick kind of self-education,” he said.

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He has not met the band but has spoken to them twice by video call and describes them as “thoroughly bright, intelligent and wanting to make the world a better place and heal some of the pain.”

In the context of British and US politics, Sir Antony said to participate in such an international project felt “necessary”. He added: “The idea that the only way that we’re going to have a viable and just and planet-saving future is by celebrating and using the connections we’ve got. I deeply regret everything to do with Brexit and I deeply regret, in a way, the kind of identity politics and nationalism which is now seemingly happening in America, in France and places like Hungary to equal measure.”

However, Sir Antony said London remains a world leader for art. “London is the best place to be an artist. It’s still the primary place of exchange culturally, globally that means,” he said. 

The New York sculpture is part of Sir Antony’s Clearing series and was inspired by a version exhibited in his Royal Academy retrospective last year.

But at double the size, the New York sculpture posed significant challenges. Sir Antony said a team of 20 to 30 people worked for nearly three weeks in temperatures as low as minus 9C and in high winds to erect it.

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