Final 'Connect, BTS' Project Shows How Pop Music & Fine Arts Can Bring the World Together


BTS attend the 62nd Annual Grammy Awards at Staples Center on Jan. 26, 2020 in Los Angeles. 

A large, aluminum and steel-sculpture was unveiled on Tuesday (Feb. 4) in New York City, as the final element of Connect, BTS, a global art event sponsored by the Billboard 200 chart-topping South Korean septet. 

The interwoven, nest-like structure designed by Antony Gormely features approximately 11 miles worth of shifting metal, and reflects the overall theme of the collaborative artistic endeavor, which spans four continents as it brings together 22 contemporary artists in collaboration with BTS' artistic vision.

The newly-unveiled artwork known as New York Clearing is part of the British sculptor’s Clearing series, and will be on display in Brooklyn Bridge Park through March 27. During the event, Gormley explained that it is meant to reflect the modern state of humanity’s relationship with the elements and one another as it is a work of art that is meant to be both seen and interacted with thanks to its size and flexible nature through which individuals can move through. 

“For me, this is not a body, maybe not even a sculpture in the traditional sense insofar as it is more energy and less mass,” he said. “I guess, in its conversation with lower Manhattan, Wall Street area, which it faces across the East River, I’m asking: In our species’, in a way, disappearance into the termite’s nest equivalent of high density, high rise urban environments, can we use the space of art as a place, like an agora, in which personal truth, subjective feeling, can be transmitted from one individual with another?”

This transmutable, communicative nature of New York Clearing ties into the theme of Connect, BTS, he says. 

“What an incredible thing these seven guys, the musicians who make up BTS… They decided to make something that didn’t need to happen, happen,” reflected Gormley. “To cause five projects across different continents, across different points of this globe to happen. With a very particular view, I think. The art world can be quite self centered, quite internalized. And to reaffirm that art is essentially everyone’s, that it is made for sharing, I think it is the root of their philosophy, and that’s why I agreed to play a part in what is a very ideological wish that art should be a platform for greater connectivity and understanding.” 

Daehyung Lee, the curator of Connect, BTS, spoke to Billboard after the formal unveiling of the artwork, and further elaborated on how the goal of the project is to bridge the gaps of human connection. 

“When I had a very casual conversation with the BTS members and Big Hit [staff], we shared the view of the role of art in our society and how in the future it should be different from the past,” Lee said. “Art is a really proven lens for all of us to understand different people and different cultures, but that good virtue and that good message has been trapped in the silo of the institutionalized [art world], so only a limited number of people have access. That’s the sad reality, yet at the same time we keep witnessing all the dividers around the world, for economic and political reasons, and we are building invisible walls around the world. [At the same time] people are communicating virtually, through [social media], with the same taste, same visions, but we are building huge and thicker walls. We keep forgetting how to communicate properly with our own neighbors, so that causes a huge problem because as human beings we have to be connected, we are social animals. Why? Because we have to trust each other, we have to work together. So we are losing that collective power, so that’s the starting point for the BTS members.” 

After meeting with BTS and Big Hit, Lee contacted other artists and curators from across the globe to share their vision, and work together on Connect, BTS to bring new artworks to new audiences. “Even though its art and music, the genres and artistic forms are different, but we each are heading in the right directions,” he said,. “[Contemporary] art is like building vessels full of the artistic form, ideas, philosophy, history, and cultural background. That’s the treasure ship, meeting with pop music. That’s the big sea it can navigate, and different people can experience these ideas now.” 

Connect, BTS events launched last month in London, Berlin, Buenos Aires, and Seoul, with the New York City installation serving as a capstone of sorts as the final artistic addition of the venture.