It was really a last minute endeavor- with just nine days left, I decided to design an art gallery that houses portraits of BTS leader Kim Nam-joon (RM) drawn by fans. I will not go into the psychology of why this decision was made, but long story short, I was craving an artistic outlet and this project became that. I know that buying advertisements or billboards is a common practice for idol birthdays, but aside from the huge expense I thought it would be nice to have an event that actually reflected something that RM was interested in. I am not an expert on BTS but it is a well known fact that RM loves art, reads art books, visits museums, etc.
The first few days were really about collecting the right art. Searching for hashtags such as “RM art” or “BTS fan art” on Instagram and Twitter I found pieces that I thought were good and/or unique and messaged the artists for permission to repost their work with attribution. I was surprised that compared to some other BTS members, there were much fewer artistic renderings of RM (of course still plentiful but comparatively less) which made the selection and curation so much easier. The final collection featured artists from around the world.
Having used Ohyay as a platform for the IMX conference I chaired earlier this year, I was excited to use it again for this gallery. Ohyay is great in that it is a somewhat of an immersive platform but compared to other virtual spaces, it does not require that much bandwidth, making it more accessible, which was important because not everyone in the world has high speed internet access.
The artwork was curated so that each “room” in the gallery had a special theme that tied them together. As a fun element, I also added the backside of RM to some of the rooms- he frequently posts pictures of himself looking at art on social media, so this was a nod to that.
Every element that was added to the design took into consideration the theme of this gallery as being a tribute to RM. For example, the emojis that one can use to post reactions were a purple heart (this is a BTS thing), trees, birthday cake, bicycle, and koala– all items that are known to be things that have meaning to him.
Aside from the gallery rooms that featured artwork, I made a video chat room where ARMY could talk to each other. I was so surprised that many people actually used this feature and at wee hours of the morning I found people from all over the world conversing – from Columbia, Philippines, England… I also made a theater room where people could watch a YouTube compilation video, and a “selfie” room where people could take a picture with a gallery wall of some of the paintings.
One of the most humbling things about this experience was reading the comments left in the guestbook. Many people commented that this was their first time visiting a museum- virtual or otherwise. It made me realize what a privilege it is to make and appreciate art, and some people do not have ready access to physical museums. I was so happy that this virtual museum was able to provide some semblance of that experience.
Over three days (the weekend of his birthday), the site had over 10,000 visitors, which I thought was a huge success. I assume that RM was never able to see this but it was really for the fans, and the site is still technically open. Thanks so much to everyone who visited and to the artists for participating in this project. Site link; RMgallery.net