SEOUL, Jan. 28 (UPI) -- K-pop superstars BTS have moved out of their familiar realm of stadiums packed with screaming fans into a quieter milieu: the world of contemporary art. The septet is collaborating with 22 artists in five cities for Connect, BTS, a series of exhibitions around the globe running from January through March.
On Tuesday, the latest chapter of the project premiered at Dongdaemun Design Plaza in downtown Seoul with immersive installations by Brussels-based artist Ann Veronica Janssens and a video projection work based on BTS' choreography by London-based Korean artist Yiyun Kang.
The opening was the fourth in the series, following shows in London, Berlin and Buenos Aires. The final exhibition is scheduled to premiere in New York on Feb. 5.
The exhibitions are tied together by themes of diversity and acceptance that are prevalent in the band's music, said Daehyung Lee, the art director for Connect, BTS and curator of the Seoul exhibition.
"Curators and 22 artists from across the world's continents have resonated with BTS's philosophy and values of inclusiveness and came together in a monumental collaborative curatorial practice," Lee said at a news conference at the exhibition's official opening.
Lee told reporters that many of the artists held video chats with the band members to discuss ideas but that there were no guidelines or demands placed on the works produced by the other curators or artists.
"It was not hierarchical in any way," Lee said. "It was a completely horizontal relationship, with BTS as the medium that connects the layers."
Lee added that the project's message of inclusiveness spreads to the insular art world, drawing BTS fans to gallery spaces they might not otherwise visit.
"Art is not only something the elite should enjoy," Lee said. "Now we can involve more people and have a greater diversity of audience members."
The Seoul exhibition allowed visitors to move through a low-visibility, fog-filled installation space illuminated with colored lights in Green,Yellow and Pink by Ann Veronica Janssens, and also featured sketches, videos and photographs from the other cities' exhibitions.
Yiyun Kang's work, Beyond the Scene, uses a projection mapping technique to reimagine the choreography of the boy band while visualizing their remarkable growth from a pop group into global icons.
"What I kept asking was how this group was able to achieve this groundbreaking success, going beyond language barriers to affect so many people's lives," Kang said. "I wanted to show the boys struggling, transcending, reaching other dimensions. It's a story everyone can share."
The artist said she interviewed dozens of the boy band's fans, known as Army, while researching the project and was struck by the deeply personal connection that they felt toward BTS, despite differences in age, language and background.
Kang told UPI that she thought that BTS's story of breaking through barriers can be a message for the troubled state of the world.
"It's not just about BTS but also this contemporary time we're living in," she said. "The political scene, environmental scene, social scene, financial scene -- everything has reached its breaking point. We have to move beyond it."
Connect, BTS will continue with its New York exhibition featuring sculptor Antony Gormley, slated for Feb. 5 at Brooklyn Bridge Park Pier 3.
The K-pop superstars will be back on more familiar ground soon, with their upcoming album, Map of the Soul: 7, slated for release on Feb. 21. The band's management company, Big Hit Entertainment, announced a world tour last week that will kick off in April and will consist of 37 dates in 17 cities across Asia, North America and Europe for its first phase.
Over the weekend, the group continued its trailblazing run of success, becoming the first-ever Korean act to perform at the Grammy Awards on Sunday. The septet joined rapper Lil Nas X onstage for "Seoul Town Road," a remix of his smash 2019 single "Old Town Road."