People call James Jean an artist – I call him an idol. The multi-awarded Taiwanese-American visual artist has done it once again and wowed everyone with his solo exhibition Seven Phases, which is based on the personalities of South Korean boy group BTS.
The exhibit first made its debut as HYBE Insight’s opening in 2021. This time, Seven Phases takes on the Manila crowd after a recent run in Frankfurt, Germany from June 14 to July 31.
The said exhibition is open to the public at Mandaluyong’s SM Megamall (4th floor of Bldg. A) until December 3. ARMY (BTS’ loyal fanbase) are in for a treat as they get to see exclusive assets of the seven-piece band, as well as each member reimagined through Jean’s palette.
Billboard Philippines joined the media day of the Seven Phases exhibit on November 3 to walk interested guests through the local edition. Here’s what we saw.
Blood, Sweat, and Tears
From the entrance is an array of turning corridors. To the immediate right is a video of James Jean explaining the process behind Seven Phases. Across from it is a few paragraphs of notes explaining the entire concept.
Continuing straight ahead from the entrance, one will come across seven totem sketches representing each member — RM, Jin, Suga, J-Hope, Jimin, V, and Jungkook.
Further on and as the hall turns are seven more drawings of each BTS member’s character as interpreted by Jean using ink on paper. These are on top of graphite and ink drawings of a garden visually unifying all the members. The adjacent hallway holds seven life-size totems of the Jean characters using mixed media on shaped wood panel. These are the eponymous “Seven Phases” in reference to the moon.
Lastly, the final hallway before entering the area reserved for BTS assets (where taking photos and videos is not allowed) starts with a grand garden illustration using mixed media on two canvases. This draws inspiration from the lyrics of BTS’ “The Truth Untold” to depict the members as flower spirits gathering in a garden of blossoms. Wall-height artworks illustrating and explaining each member’s character then follow.
Even without Jean’s video explanation, the painstaking planning that went into each aesthetic effort was clear from the get-go. Seven Phases is fully fleshed out from concept to execution.
Jean’s characters do not merely echo or reflect what we already know about BTS. Instead, they are unafraid to venture into unexplored territory with more nuanced takes on each persona.
RM’s Moonchild references the leader’s Night Owl tendency to work on music extensively during nighttime hours, while Jimin’s Champignon demonstrates the dancer’s extended airtime while floating through choreography.
It’s ingenious without being ungenuine – a masterful take befitting of BTS’ artistry.
The second half of the exhibit is more straightforward. In the area featuring BTS assets are unwashed costumes from the music videos of “Butter” and “Permission To Dance,” as well as the Dior stage outfits used in one of the band’s most memorable Mic Drop performances. Even their in-ear monitors and microphones are up for display.
Next, the penultimate section is a collection of BTS memorabilia from their album designs, magazine features, and scores of prestigious distinctions from the likes of Billboard, the MTV Video Music Awards, American Music Awards, and so forth.
The final area is specially reserved for fans to write wall messages, take pictures, and purchase merchandise, which is a privilege afforded only to exhibitgoers.
Altogether, the second half feels more like a bonus as the James Jean portion already feels complete. This is akin to the BTS experience, as ARMYs are regularly spoiled as a fandom with endless content to look forward to.
The best is not yet to come. With the BTS X James Jean: Seven Phases Exhibition, it’s here.