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The World’s Game: Fútbol and Contemporary Art

Pérez Art Museum Miami (PAMM) presents “The World’s Game: Fútbol and Contemporary Art,” an exhibition dedicated to the intersection of art and the most popular sport in the world-fútbol. On view from April 13 through September 2, this show explores fútbol, and its interactions with societies around the world. Planned to overlap with the 2018 World Cup, the exhibition features how the sport has stimulated artists to reflect upon its implications on society. The first exhibition of its kind in Miami, it engages with the city’s special passion for the global game.

The exhibition includes 50 works of art ranging from video and photography to painting and sculpture by more than 30 artists including Andy Warhol, Vik Muniz, Maria Lassnig, Kehinde Wiley, Miguel Calderón, Robin Rhode, Taryn Simon, Quisqueya Henriquez, Antoni Muntadas, Melanie Smith, Hank Willis Thomas, and others.

“The subject of fútbol has been universally addressed by contemporary artists for quite some time. Many of them engage with the game as a form of common connection between people around the world-a connection that is exceptionally evident here in South Florida, where a widespread passion for fútbol is vibrantly palpable,” said PAMM Director Franklin Sirmans. “This exhibition highlights the intersection of popular culture and fine art and presents the art of the game as much as the game of art. As Miami prepares to welcome David Beckham and his partners’ new Major League Soccer (MLS) franchise, we also highlight the fact that many of Miami’s most fervent fans root for teams far away from their hometown.”

Kehinde Wiley. Samuel Eto'o, 2010.Oil on canvas. 72 x 60 inches. Private Collection, courtesy the artist and Roberts & Tilton, Los Angeles. Image courtesy the artist and Roberts & Tilton, Los Angeles.

Played regularly by more than 240 million people in more than 200 countries, fútbol is considered the most popular sport in the world. PAMM seeks to present the many forms of art connected to and inspired by the game of soccer, in which social, cultural, and political issues of identity, nationalism, globalism, and mass spectacle play out visually. The geographic range represented in PAMM’s exhibition reflects the global reach of the sport, with artists hailing from Argentina, Ghana, Italy, Mexico, and Brazil, in addition to several Miami-based artists.

Works featured in “The World’s Game: Fútbol and Contemporary Art” include Kehinde Wiley’s portrait of the renowned Cameroonian striker Samuel Eto’o, who won the African Player of the Year award a record four times. Wiley’s created the portrait on the occasion of the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. The exhibition will also feature LA-based artist Chris Beas’ photo-based paintings of former Manchester United stars Brian Kidd, George Best, and Sir Bobby Charlton. Beas grew up loving the British team from afar in Los Angeles, and his designs are evidence of how children continue to find heroes in faraway places.

Hank Willis Thomas. Hand of God, 2017.Fiberglass, chameleon auto paint finish. 19 1/2 x 13 3/4 x 8 7/8 in. Edition of 3 + 1 AP (#2/3). Courtesy the artist and Ben Brown Fine Arts, London. © Hank Willis Thomas. Photo: Tom Carter

Hank Willis Thomas. Hand of God, 2017.Fiberglass, chameleon auto paint finish. 19 1/2 x 13 3/4 x 8 7/8 in. Edition of 3 + 1 AP (#2/3). Courtesy the artist and Ben Brown Fine Arts, London. © Hank Willis Thomas. Photo: Tom Carter

Taryn Simon’s series of large-format photographs, Paperwork and the Will of Capital, centers on images of floral arrangements recreated to resemble the centerpieces that accompanied the singing of major political treaties, agreements, contracts, and decrees. The exhibition at PAMM will include an image dedicated to FIFA’s 2014 agreement to outlaw third-party ownership of soccer players’ economic rights.

Other works allow artists and fans to play out their fantasies. In a film by Miguel Calderon, Mexico trounces Brazil 17-0-an unprecedented feat that is accompanied by celebrations on a national scale. For Melanie Smith, born in England but a resident of Mexico City since 1989, Mexico’s cultural fabric lies at the heart of her film installation, named after the country’s largest and most famous arena, the Azteca. Built for the politically-charged 1968 Olympics, the Azteca has hosted some of the game’s most memorable triumphs and defeats.

Stephen Dean. Volta, 2002-03.Single-channel color DVD installation, with sound, and fabric enclosure. Courtesy of the artist and Baldwin Gallery, Aspen.

Stephen Dean. Volta, 2002-03.Single-channel color DVD installation, with sound, and fabric enclosure. Courtesy of the artist and Baldwin Gallery, Aspen.

Another famous stadium has a starring role in a work by Nelson Leirner that features Brazil’s largest and most popular field, the Maracana. Leirner has transformed the audience, filling the stands with hundreds of small statuettes of religious and pop culture figures from across the globe. Battalions of Buddhas are placed alongside legions of Roman cavalry and troops of Disney cartoon characters. The figure of Jesus himself embraces the scene, lining the arena walls with outstretched arms. Within the context of a sporting event, these characters have the opportunity to play strikingly different roles. Maracana is a commentary on the futile nature of the World Cup today, evoking the threats facing this institution, which is at odds with the imperialism of military power. At the same time, Maracana addresses secular culture’s transformation into modern-day religious identity.

Chris Beas. The Kidd's Alright, 2008.Acrylic on canvas. 36 x 48 inches. Photo courtesy the artist.

Chris Beas. The Kidd's Alright, 2008.Acrylic on canvas. 36 x 48 inches. Photo courtesy the artist.

“How do you spell Pele?” a Sunday Times journalist inquired of a fan after the 1970 football final against Italy. “G-O-D” was the answer. Such was the legend Warhol took on in his 1978 portrait of the Brazilian soccer superstar Pele. Throughout the 1970s, Warhol attached himself to ubiquitous figures in pop culture, fascinated with their societal influence. In 1978, Warhol teamed up with art collector Richard Weisman to create his Athlete Series, featuring 10 famed athletes that together represent the broad spectrum of American sports culture, including boxer Muhammad Ali and basketball player Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, among others.

Amidst record yearly transfer fees and the international corporate stakes, it is sometimes easy to forget that the game is most often played for fun. Isolating some of the more absurd aspects of players “diving” as they attempt to gain a penalty or an unfair advantage, Paul Pfeiffer’s video, Caryatid (2003), is sure to provoke laughs. Likewise, Antoni Muntadas highlights the unabashed joy involved in playing the sport in a film titled Celebration (2009), which presents footage of nothing but the immediate aftermath of goals scored.

Jaime Lauriano. Morte Súbita (sudden death), 2014.Looped video projection, 24 min., 51 sec. Courtesy the artist and Galeria Leme.

Jaime Lauriano. Morte Súbita (sudden death), 2014.Looped video projection, 24 min., 51 sec. Courtesy the artist and Galeria Leme.

The late Austrian artist Maria Lassnig made colorful expressionist paintings of the human body that depict average human beings with brutal honesty rather than the models of advertising. In effect, she created surreal psychological portraits of interior lives, such as her depiction of a footballer who seems to have lost his shorts, which will be on view as a part of this exhibition.

The show also highlights works by several Miami-based artists including Alexandre Arrechea, Adler Guerrier, Jamilah Sabur, Sinuhe Vega Negrin, and Bhakhti Baxter. The celebrated Miami filmmaker Gaspar González will also create a new film about the game as it is played in Miami, from pickup to the pros.

“The World’s Game: Fútbol and Contemporary Art” is on view through September 2, 2018.