Sunday was an emotional rollercoaster.
After getting my phone stolen on Saturday night, I spent the morning checking in at the police station (2 hours), trying to dance away my pain in the studio (2 hours), then navigating the task of buying and activating a new phone (1.5 hours).
Finally, it was time to see my spot of brightness in this dreary world: the seven boys of BTS. Using a map the police had graciously drawn for me on a Post-it, I found my way to the ’24/7 = Serendipity (오,늘)’ exhibition at Ara Art Center. But the adventure didn’t end there! Without a phone to show my booking confirmation, I had to beg and plead to be let into the exhibit.
When the staff eventually took pity on me and allowed me to enter, they told me not to worry about the phone and “just enjoy your BTS!”
Honestly, what would we do without them?
Guides are available in multiple languages to help visitors work their way through the ambitious, four-floor exhibit. On the first page of the guide is a romantic inscription: “In the middle of this vast ocean / I sing for someone who will listen to my voice / In the middle of this vast ocean / I hear a song that comforts me / A story we build together, you and I.”
The first rooms, entitled “BTS BEGINS” and “DOPE,” feature golden discs engraved to depict each member’s unique personality and then some beautiful portraits of the beautiful boys themselves.
Next comes the “MIC Drop” room, which contains photos of BTS’s significant wins on award shows, from their first Korean music shows to recent achievements abroad like the Billboard Music Awards.
Then a mirrored hallway leads you to “Young Forever,” one of many rooms filled with never-before-seen photos of BTS throughout the years. You’re not supposed to take pictures in there, so I didn’t, but other people definitely did, so I’m sure they’re all online somewhere by now.
This is one of the most crowded rooms, and it’s hot in there, too. In here, I felt like the chaperone of a school field trip, peering over the shoulders of young fans all giggling over how cute Jimin is in the pictures (which he is, of course).
Next up is the “BANGTAN ROOM,” partially made up to look like the boys’ old studio spaces with computer monitors, equipment, polaroid photos and other personal touches.
I tried so hard to take a picture of Namjoon’s cute little “Give Up” tomato sculpture lamps from behind the glass, but the glare was too real.
This nearly wraps up the first floor of the exhibit. The next stop is “We On,” which is absolutely one of the coolest parts of the whole thing, bringing to life several of BTS’s most memorable music videos and allowing fans to step into the sets and be a part of their worlds.First comes the set from “I Need U,” featuring the bathtub scene where we see Jimin in the video, as well as some doodles added by the boys upon their visit to the exhibit.
Across from this are the blue train cars also featured in “I Need U.”
The next set is from the “Spring Day” music video: the Omelas hotel, a reference to Ursula K. Le Guin’s science fiction story “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas” about a utopian city named Omelas that is in a perpetual state of happiness as long as one child is kept in constant misery.
Then comes the Magic Shop, a set from BTS’s “Fake Love” teaser. Here, you can exchange your fears for something positive.
The final music video set in this section of the exhibit is from “MIC Drop,” but this room has some cool video and audio elements, so you’re not allowed to take pictures.Across the hall, there is another room of unreleased pictures (this one called “Spring Day”), which leads into “Love Maze.” “Love Maze” is a literal maze of mirrors, some of which have been autographed by the members of BTS. I completely neglected this part, though, because the other rooms on this floor are so cool. Which brings me to…
The next room — another amazing highlight of the exhibition: “Tear,” a room filled with flatscreen TVs showing never-before-seen dance practice videos! Again, no photos or videos were allowed, so I just took my time taking in the videos that spanned the years of BTS’s existence.
The second floor concludes with the “ARMY BOMB” room, which houses the fence as seen in BTS’s “FIRE” music video. On the wall, there is a video projection of the band from a concert on the 2017 Wings Tour, and fans feel as if they are standing inside in the official lightstick itself.
The first room on the third floor of the exhibition is “Whalien 52,” the blacklight paint-splattered set from J-Hope’s “MAMA” scene in the Wings short films.
The next room, “DNA,” presents several of BTS’s most popular song lyrics in artistic formats that cover all of the room’s white surfaces.
First up: another room of unreleased photos (these ones from live performances) called “Wings.” In the center of this room sits the phone booth prop that Namjoon used in his Wings short film “Reflection,” as well as onstage during the tour. The booth is covered in quite a lot of cryptic writing and poetry, so it was thrilling to finally have the chance to inspect it up close.
The fourth floor also features some polaroid photos of the boys in a room called “RUN” and a room of kind of Harry Potter-style moving portraits called “Blood Sweat & Tears.” I wish they’d let us take pictures in this room because Namjoon’s portrait was peak cuteness, and I still dream of it at night.
Finally, fans are invited to write down their feelings on the exhibit in the ARMY capsule in a room called “IDOL.” Overwhelmed, I just wrote down my feelings honestly (they were: “Namjoon is cute!!”) and exited through the gift shop.
And there you have it: a room-by-room, thorough and detailed account of BTS’s ’24/7 = Serendipity (오,늘)’ exhibition. ARMY af.
2018 BTS Exhibition ’24/7 = Serendipity (오,늘)’
Ara Art Center
26, Insandong 9-gil, Jongno-gu
Tickets are 18,000 KRW.
The exhibition runs through October 28.
For more information, visit www.ticket.interpark.com.