Art World Loves Basketball.  And Rings and Shapes and Rear boards.

Art World Loves Basketball. And Rings and Shapes and Rear boards.

Basket balls are extinguished, covered with spray paint or covered with 24 carat gold leaf. They are sculpted from porcelain, covered with cement or folded into giant pyramids. They jumped on the canvases and were carved on thin lanterns flattened like flower petals.

Browse galleries, museums and studios, browse auction catalogs and social media feeds, and it’s starting to get clear: The art world is increasingly scattered with basketballs.

In addition to making basketball a recurring theme in his work, Jonas Wood, who has become one of the world’s most sought-after artists, said, “It’s like the best sport ever.”

In the past, the sports titans who thought about sports are reconsidering their work on special basketball shows. Young artists participate in the game as enthusiastic fans, cautious skeptics or nostalgic adults. And the market responds.

Take a look at the intersection of recent exhibitions: Last summer, paintings by the influential artist David Hammons splashing dirty basketballs on paper were shown at the Upper East Nahmad Contemporary show called Basketball and Kool-Aid. This spring, the Jack Shainman Gallery in Chelsea exhibited basketball-themed paintings by Barkley L. Hendricks, who died in 2017, at the Paint exhibition.

This should not be confused with a ring-oriented group show called “Paint” that opened at the Local Gallery in Toronto this year, or another exhibition called “Paint” at the William Benton Museum a few years ago. Art in Connecticut. The Weatherspoon Museum of Art in Greensboro, NC, had its own group show, To the Hoop, inspired by basketball in 2020.

Emily Stamey, curator of exhibitions at Weatherspoon, said: “We filled a gallery of about 5,000 square feet and I was really able to do parts 2 and 3 because there is so much work to do there. In the opening weeks of the show experienced record-breaking participation numbers.

The spread of basketball as both a subject and a tool in art is the result of the convergence of many cultural currents and creative impulses, say artists and others in the industry.

Following the rise of players such as Larry Bird, Magic Johnson and Michael Jordan, along with the growing popularity of the NBA in recent decades, a generation of artists who are now at the peak of their powers has matured. Even artists who are not open fans of the game say that they have observed how deeply it penetrates the society.

Derek Fordjour, 48, who painted a portrait of Johnson for his solo exhibition at the David Kordansky Gallery in Los Angeles this year, said, “We grew up with the sports industry.” “Thus, artists as cultural observers will certainly be greatly affected by the emergence of such a dominant force.”

Fordjour et al. Also pointed to the gradual, delayed diversification of art spaces and institutes – with a strong focus on black artists in the market in recent years – as well as a general rethinking of what could be considered fine art that invited more ideas. and the influences of pop and street culture and major commercial worlds.

“Demographics are definitely changing,” said Hank Williams Thomas, 46, who has repeatedly been out of action in a 22-foot bronze statue of his arm at the feet of Philadelphia 76ers star Joel Embiid. Of the Brooklyn Bridge.

For artists, basketball can serve as both a powerful, highly meaningful symbol, and a trivial object of modern American life.

“It’s like taking a still life of a fruit bowl,” said New York-based sculptor Hugh Hayden.

Demonstrating rattan and grape basketball hoops at a solo show at the Lisson Gallery in Chelsea last summer, Hayden acknowledged that basketball and fruit bowls could cause different reactions.

“There’s a big waiting list,” Hayden said of the basketball figures. “I could have scored 100 basketball goals, and that wouldn’t have met the demand for them.”

They said they grew up playing baseball-inspired pieces of the sport they saw in museums and books when they were growing up.

Today, however, the loss of cultural relevance of baseball and the simultaneous rise of basketball as a cultural force can be clearly seen in galleries across the country.

“Baseball was a growing poetry, and I still have tears in my eyes when I watch a baseball game,” said New York-based artist Andrew Cuo. “But when I watch a basketball game, my heart beats.”

Until Jeremy Lee’s thrilling rise to the Knicks in 2012 forced Kuo to turn to the game more directly at work, Kuo kept his fandom and art experience separate – “painting all day, then shaking Stephon Marbury shirts at night.”

He compared the recent proliferation of basketballs in galleries – a snowball dynamic that combines inspiration, evolution, market acceptance and simple replicas – to Eurostep’s gradual takeover of the NBA.

“It’s our generation that has become the creators of everything,” said Kuo, 44, who co-authored the disrespectful, illustrated encyclopedia of last year’s game with writer Ben Detrick, The Joy of Basketball. (Kuo and Detrick also contributed to The New York Times.)

Basketball, of course, has been an art for generations.

Andy Warhol included Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in a series of 1977 portraits of athletes.

In 1986, Hammons, now 78, made a series of improvised hoops, about 30 feet high, called “High Goals,” and described them to The New York Times that year as “anti-basketball” statues. (The art world was thrilled when Hammons sold a frosted glass basketball arm decorated with crystal candlesticks at auction in 2013 for $ 8,005,000.)

Any basketball sitting in the gallery is available in conversation with at least Jeff Coons and the basketballs he started hanging in fish tanks in 1985.

The editors of last year’s book, General Practice: Basketball and Contemporary Art, traced the art of basketball back in 1913 to a lithography called The Basketball Girl.

“From the very beginning of basketball, there was the art of having basketballs,” says Dan Peterson, one of the editors. “But I think there has been a noticeable increase in the last few years.”

While preparing the museum’s show, Stamey, curator of Weatherspoon, was thrilled by the abundance of artists practicing sports from almost endless angles.

For example, the exhibition featured the work of Esmaa Mohamoud, 29, and David Huffman, 59, Canadian artists who sewed NBA jerseys to their honeymoons to explore the interrelationships between sports and gender roles in their childhood. The pyramid of 650 basketballs connects the grandeur and moral uncertainty of the modern game with ancient Egyptian structures.

Elvaro Barrington, a London-based artist from around the world, used basketballs in cement boxes as a recurring motif at shows in London, New York and Los Angeles last year. At the exhibition of Richard Prince, which is currently on display at the Gagosian Gallery in New York, a basketball arm is bent in the middle of the room. And later this month, the Cranbrook Museum of Art in Detroit will open a solo show by Tyrrell Winston, who designed the basketballs and nets he found on a large scale.

The growing interaction between fine arts and fashion has also brought basketballs to the runway: Artist Josh Smith has teamed up with Givenchy to create a basketball jack-o’-lantern handbag and other clothing with the same image for the 2022 Spring / Summer collection. . , Revives the 2015 jack-o’-lantern piece.

“Basketball intersects with a lot of topics, points of view, different things that we talk about culturally and are interested in,” Stamey said. “That’s why the subject is so rich and so many artists are turning to it.”

The NBA now supports this wave of work and is increasingly dealing directly with the art world.

The artist has been a key player within the league, working with clients such as Victor Solomon, Kevin Durant, LeBron James, Nike and the Boston Celtics to create items such as stained glass backboards and porcelain basketballs. The NBA recently commissioned Solomon, in partnership with Tiffany & Company, to redesign the trophy that future champions, the Boston Celtics, or Golden State Warriors will lift this month.

Two years ago, the Cleveland Cavaliers took the unusual step of naming New York-based artist Daniel Arsham as creative director. A year ago, 41-year-old Arsham installed a large fiberglass and plaster case in the Cavaliers’ home arena called “Moving Basketball” as part of a more than 100-piece redesign by team owner Dan Gilbert. Around the building are almost twenty other artists, including Nina Chanel Abney and KAWS.

Arsham will open a solo show called Le Modular du Basketball in Marseille, France this month. basketball universe.

Wood, 45, is one of the most ardent basketball fans in the art world, eager to play and his own nostalgia for inspiration. He idolized the Growing Bird, and when he first moved to Los Angeles twenty years ago, he often played pickup games with other artists. Today, his studio has two hoops, a giant basketball-shaped throne, and countless other basketball delights.

“Basketball is rock ‘n’ roll,” said Wood, who has season tickets for the Clippers and often finds visual material for his portraits on trading cards. “It’s hip-hop. This is the box office. “

Marty Eisenberg, a prominent New York-based collector, owns several of Wood’s paintings, including a 2004 portrait of a bird, and likens it to a Babe Ruth card.

But the man who escaped Eisenberg is amazed: Wood’s 2006 solo show at the Black Dragon Society in Los Angeles is a painting by Chris Kaman, the Clippers’ center. California art dealer Jeff Poe. Pieces of wood today are often valued at six figures.

“Poe always hangs over me, he has a portrait of Chris Kama,” Eisenberg said. “This is one of Jonas Wood’s greatest works. And at that time it was a thousand dollars. ”

Since then, the game has permeated all corners of the art world.

Last year, renowned portrait painter Kehinde Wiley began selling basketballs depicting the 2017 painting The Death of St. Peter. Joseph “$ 175 to benefit a non-profit arts organization in Senegal. (Plastic stand for ball sold separately, $ 35.)

Collected by Jay-Z and Beyonce, artist Hebru Brantley recently created graffiti-style basketballs for sports brand Wilson. French street artist Brainwash created his own “vandalized basketballs” last year.

Even at the Museum of Modern Art, a basketball designed by Italian multidisciplinary artist Marco Oggian sells for $ 119.

In the midst of all this, it may be easy to forget that the art world has not been completely conquered by hoop enthusiasts, and that there are many art lovers who are unaware of the game with pleasure.

Jack Eisenberg, a consultant and enthusiastic basketball fan at Art Intelligence Global (and Marty Eisenberg’s son), laughed when he recalled attending the opening in New York a few years ago and leaving the party to watch a big college game.

“I told them I had to go and look at Syracuse and Duke,” he said. “And these people said,‘ What does that mean? I do not know what it means. ‘”

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