Football as Contemporary Art

Written by Elena Durand

Despite being extraordinarily popular around the world, football isn’t something we necessarily think of when we imagine different subjects for contemporary art. There are quite literally hundreds of thousands of football fans around the world. Yet there just isn’t that much crossover between sport and art, and as a result the subject rarely seems to come up. Really though, it’s actually a fun one to consider for a few different reasons.

Campaign for Pepsi, The Art of Football. In collaboration with Robin van Persi and photographer Danny Clinch. Agency: 180LA, www.merijnhos.com

For starters, football around the world is easier than ever to follow and stream from a distance, which simply makes it a more available subject. Not only are there dedicated sports and football streaming services – in some cases for free – but there are also additional channels showing matches and highlights more than ever. Bookmaking services in particular have added new options in this regard. So many of them now offer popular listings and provide free start-up options that the good ones have had to differentiate themselves in other ways – one of which has been the adoption of convenient, easy streaming options. As a result, people who are interested can typically find football to watch – in an artist’s case, for direct inspiration or even scenes to capture.

Football can also be an interesting subject these days given that despite its lack of strong connection to the art world, there is some precedent for gorgeous work. Specifically, the 2014 World Cup in Brazil brought about a surge in football-related art, typically concerning famous players, teams, and events from the sport’s history. These works were on display at an LA museum, and while they were done in a variety of artistic styles, there was a distinctly modern feel to a lot of them. They demonstrated not only how beautiful a football-related work can be, but how many options there are in terms of specific subjects and stylistic options.

A work by Kehinde Wiley created for the World Cup Brazil, www.goal.com

There is also a graffiti aspect to things, which is its own form of modern art, so to speak. In some cases graffiti has even been embraced by networks as a sort of marketing tactic for major events and tournaments. But it’s also true that all around the world, and particularly in cities and countries known for their love of the game, you can find graffiti not unlike some of the contemporary art pieces that went on display in Los Angeles in 2014. Whenever interest in football is at its highest, it seems, examples like these pop up.

This goes to show that even though it isn’t a subject most modern artists would necessarily think about it, it’s one worth exploring. Paying even marginally closer attention to the sport can yield all kinds of interesting ideas.

A digital graffiti by Jack Morton created for Turner’s UEFA coverage, www.newcaststudio.com

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