Still from 'FIESTA' by IZ*ONE

Art in Korean Music Videos

Today I’m writing about how art sometimes can be used in surprising ways. To be more specific, I want to show you that art of all genres, whether it’s realism, romanticism, contemporary or surrealism can be an inspiration. Even in places where you might not expect it to, for example in music videos, more specifically K-pop music videos. 

We’ve all probably seen art pieces being used in feature films and there’s a plethora of interesting video essays on YouTube that I really recommend watching. However for this article I want to dive a little bit deeper into the art that is being used as inspiration or just blatantly shows up in K-pop music videos. Sometimes creative directors do an amazing job of leaving little Easter eggs and I’m very happy anytime I can combine my love for music with my love for art. 

Just a quick disclaimer, I am by no means an art student, nor a professional. I’m really just an enthusiast who loves looking at art even if I don’t understand it. 

René Magritte

Art in all its forms has always captured my interest, and being from Belgium, I’m quite familiar with fellow Belgian René Magritte, probably one of the most famous surrealist painters together with Salvador Dali. 

So when I was watching the music video for ‘Heart Attack’ by Chuu from Loona, I was kind of surprised to see this shot. That’s pretty much this painting: ‘Waiting Room’ by Magritte.

Or when I watched this music video for the song ‘DOLLAR’ by Choiza, Primary ft. GAIN. The entire thing is basically going through the oeuvre of Magritte. Here’s just one example of what is basically a moving ‘Golconda’.

There’s also the literal opening shot for Rothy’s ‘Lost Time’, which is the work ‘Lovers’. That also inspired this moment in Pentagon’s latest comeback video ‘Dr.Bebe’, though it’s not an exact match so I’m basically just guessing that one.

But let’s not get stuck on one painter, no matter how great he is. Let’s jump to a different painter. I’m sure you all know Picasso. It turns out that the creative directors also like using his work as inspiration.


In the audio video of ‘dOra maar’ you can see a painting in the background. That painting is by Picasso. Now the interesting thing is that the painting ‘Weeping Woman’ was hugely inspired by Picasso’s muse Dora Maar. She was not only a muse, she was also a painter, photographer and poet. People who live in London, please go check out this Tate Modern exhibition entirely dedicated to her. It ends 15 March, so be quick.

OnlyOneOf even has a song titled ‘PicassO’, as does SHINee.

You’ve probably seen this piece before. 

‘Relativity’ by M.C. Escher

This is ‘Relativity’ by M.C. Escher and now look at the screenshot taken from GWSN’s music video for ‘Pinky Star’. Looks familiar doesn’t it. 

screenshot from GWSN – ‘Pinky Star’

Now for a completely different style of art, take a look at ‘Nighthawks’ by Edward Hopper, probably one of the most famous American painters. 

That’s literally the only thing I could think of when I looked at the opening shot of ‘Kiss Me Like That’ by SHINHWA. 

Now to use another Belgian painter as an example, I wanted to mention Pieter Bruegel and his work ‘The Fall Of The Rebel Angels’ that was in the music video for ‘Blood, Sweat and Tears’ by BTS. 

Honestly, that entire video is filled to the brim with artwork and meaning (like most of their videos to be honest). You can find a really in depth look at the art used in this post on Amino.

Sandro Botticelli

There’s this reference to Sandro Botticelli’s ‘The Birth Of Venus’ in the music video for CLC’s ‘Me’. I actually really loved this easter egg, especially with the entire concept of ‘Me’ where they want to break stereotypes and social constructs around beauty. 

T.O.P. is well known for having a huge art collection and being an avid collector. In his solo music video ‘Doom Dada’ he shows his love for Salvador Dali. If you haven’t yet, please go look at the entire music video, because it is SO cool! He even dresses up as Dali including mustache. 

It was kind of hard to take a screenshot of the moment, because there’s multiple imagines flowing into the end image. Here’s the time stamp, if you want to take a look: 3:15. The work references is ‘Three Sphinxes of Birth’.

In ATEEZ’s video for ‘Say My Name’ there’s a piece of art that was inspired by Valerie Hegarty’s ‘Niagara Falls’. It is absolutely stunning and it also shows up in almost every shot.

Vincent Van Gogh

Now, Vincent Van Gogh is well, well loved by pretty much everyone. In Vincent Blue’s video for ‘It’s Raining’, he wakes up in his bedroom which is a physical representation of the work ‘Bedroom In Arles’, including the red duvet. There are references to ‘Starry Night’ as well as Van Gogh’s self-portrait.

Even in the latest release of IZ*ONE you can spot a painting. ‘Composition VII’ by Wassily Kandinsky is featured behind the members. There’s an interesting little fact about Kandinsky’s piece.

“It is the first time Kandinsky achieved with painting what he believed musicians achieved with music: a pure translation of feelings into formal abstract elements that are capable of expressing the human spirit.” source

Honorable Mentions

I also wanted to mention Life and Time with their music video for ‘Love Virus’. That was actually filmed in the Gustav Klimt exhibition in Seoul. Probably the most famous painting by Klimt is ‘The Kiss’ which is in the video as well.

The same goes for TST’s video for ‘Countdown’. You can see the works of Piet Mondriaan, Vincent Van Gogh and Jean Francois Millet. 

I want to give an honorable mention to Zion.T ft Gaeko and the music video for ‘Babay’. All of the classics are there, from ‘Birth of Venus’ to ‘Mona Lisa’.

The last honorable mention is for GOND with his music video for ‘Dive, Dive, Dive’, you can read more about him here, because he was our Indie Pick.

Those are just a couple of examples I found (with help from the lovely people on reddit). I think it’s amazing that there are people who dedicate their entire lives to bringing art into people’s lives in a not so conventional way.

So a big thank you to all the art directors and creative directors, who bring amazing art pieces into our daily lives through K-pop music videos. 

Next time you watch a music video, pay attention to the pieces hanging on the wall, you might just discover something new.

Ilse Van Den Heede
A writer with a slight coffee addiction and a tendency to find K-Indie gems in the YouTube rabbit hole.