The art world loves basketball. And hoops and t-shirts and wallpapers.

Basketballs are spoiled, sprayed with paint or covered with 24 carat gold leaf. They are sculpted from porcelain, laid in cement or laid in huge pyramids. They are strewn on canvases, carved with insolent jack-o-lanterns, like flattened flower petals.

Take a walk through galleries, museums and studios, browse auction catalogs and social media channels and it becomes apparent: the art world is becoming more and more scattered with basketball.

“It’s the best sport ever,” said Jonas Wood, who became one of the most sought-after artists in the world when basketball became a recurring theme in his work.

The Art Titans, who have been thinking about sports for years, are re-viewing their work on specific basketball shows. Junior performers get involved in the game as avid fans, cautious skeptics or nostalgic adults. And the market responds.

Consider a cross-section of recent exhibitions: Last summer, paintings by influential artist David Hammons, painted on paper with a dirt-covered basketball, appeared at Nahmad Contemporary, on the Upper East Side, in a show called “Basketball and Cool-Aid.” This spring, the Jack Shainman Gallery in Chelsea unveiled paintings created on the theme of basketball by Barclay L. From Hendrix, who died in 2017, at an exhibition called “Paint.”

This should not be confused with the ring-focused group show called “Paint,” which opened this year at a local gallery or other exhibition in Toronto, as well as “Paint,” a few years ago at the William Benton Museum. In Art Connecticut. The Weatherspoon Museum of Art in Greensboro, NC, had its own basketball-inspired group show, “To the Hoop,” in 2020.

“We filled in a nearly 5,000-square-foot gallery, and I could really do parts 2 and 3 because there is so much work that is so powerful,” said Emily Stemy, curator of the Weatherspoon exhibition. Issued a record attendance in the first few weeks of the show.

The spread of basketball as a subject and art is the result of the rapprochement of many cultural currents and creative impulses, say artists and other industry figures.

The generation of artists who are currently reaching the heights of their power has reached adulthood with the growing popularity of the NBA over the past few decades, following the rise of players such as Larry Bird, Magic Johnson and Michael Jordan. Even artists who are not obvious fans of the game said they were observing how deeply it penetrated the community.

“We grew up with the emergence of a sports-industrial complex,” said Derek Forjour, 48, who painted a portrait of Johnson for a personal exhibition at the David Kordansky Gallery in Los Angeles this year. “So artists, as cultural observers, will certainly be greatly influenced by the emergence of such a dominant force.”

Forjor et al. Also pointed to the gradual, delayed diversification of the art space and institutions – in recent years the market has focused heavily on black artists – as well as a general overview of what can be considered fine art, which has led to more ideas. And the influence of pop and street culture and the mainstream commercial realms.

“The demographics of what we see are really changing,” said Hank Williams-Thomas, 46, who has repeatedly featured the sport in his work, which includes a 22-foot bronze sculpture of Philadelphia 76ers star Joel Embid. Brooklyn Bridge.

For artists, therefore, basketball can be seen as a symbol of power, of highly interpretation, and of the banal object of modern American life.

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

But Hayden, whose solo show at the Lisson Gallery last summer in Chelsea featured basketball rings woven from rattan and vines, acknowledged that basketball and fruit cups can trigger different reactions.

“It’s a long list of expectations,” Hayden said of the basketball games. I could have scored 100 basketball goals and it would not have met the demand for them.

The sports-inspired works that these artists saw in museums and books when they were growing up, as far as they were generally seen, were usually taken from baseball.

But today the disappearance of the cultural urgency of baseball and the simultaneous rise of basketball as a cultural force are clearly visible in the galleries of the country.

“Baseball was poetry growing up, and I can still hold back tears when I see a game of baseball,” said Andrew Cuo, an artist from New York. “But my heart races when I see a basketball game.”

Kuo kept his worship and art practice separate – “he painted all day, then night’s Stephen Marber t-shirts on silk screening” – until Jeremy Lynn’s exciting ascent in 2012 forced him to touch the game more directly in his work.

He compared the recent spread of basketball to galleries – the dynamics of the snowball combining inspiration, evolution, market acceptance and simple copying – to gradually conquer Eurostep in the NBA.

“This is our generation growing up to be people who make things,” said Kuo, 44, who co-authored a disrespectful, illustrated encyclopedia of the game, The Joy of Basketball, with writer Ben Detrick last year. (Kuo and Detrick also contributed to The New York Times.)

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

Andy Warhol included Kari Abdul-Jabbar in a series of portraits of athletes he made in 1977.

In 1986, Hemons, now 78, made a series of improvised outer rings about 30 feet tall called the Higher Goals, which he called The Antique Basketball Statue the same year. (The art world was in turmoil in 2013, when a frosted glass basketball hoop decorated with Hammons crystal candles sold for $ 8,005,000 at auction in 2000.)

And any basketball that sits in the gallery there is, to say the least, an unwavering conversation with Jeff Koons and the basketballs he started in the fish tanks in 1985.

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

“From the day basketball was created, there was art in it along with basketball,” said Dan Peterson, one of the editors. “But I think there has been a noticeable increase in the last few years.”

Stamey, the curator of Weatherspoon, admired these surplus works, from artists who performed the sport from almost infinite angles when arranging a museum show.

Exhibitors included works by, for example, Canadian artist Esma Mohamud, 29, who sewed NBA T-shirts in ball gowns to explore the interdependence of sports and gender roles in her childhood, and 59-year-old David Hoffman, who installed a giant. The pyramid consists of 650 basketballs that connect the greatness of the modern game and the moral ambiguity with the ancient Egyptian structures.

Elsewhere in the world, London-based artist Alvaro Barrington has made basketball balls stuck in boxes full of cement a repetitive motif at his shows over the past year in London, New York and Los Angeles. At the Richard Prince Exhibition, currently held at the Gagos Gallery in New York, a basketball goal stands in the middle of the room. And later this month, the Cranbrook Museum of Art in Detroit will open the Tyrell Winston solo show, which arranges basketballs and nets that it discovers as large-scale formations.

The growing interaction between fine arts and fashion has also put basketballs on the runway: Artist Josh Smith has partnered with Givenchy for the Spring / Summer 2022 collection to make basketball jack-o’-lantern handbags and other clothing with the same image. , Rebuilt Jack-O’-Faran, which he made in 2015.

“Basketball intersects a lot of subjects, points of view, different issues that we are talking about culturally and with interest,” Stem said. “This is what makes it such a rich subject and why so many artists aspire to it.”

The NBA now supports this wave of work and, with increasing regularity, is directly involved with the art world.

Artist Victor Solomon has become a major contributor to the league, creating objects such as stained glass and porcelain basketballs in partnership with clients such as Kevin Durant, LeBron James, Nike and the Boston Celtics. The NBA recently commissioned Solomon, in partnership with Tiffany & Company, to redesign the cup that the final champions, the Boston Celtics or Golden State Warriors, will win this month.

Two years ago, the Cleveland Cavaliers took an unusual step by naming New York artist Daniel Arsham as creative director. A year earlier, Arsham, 41, had installed a large fiber and plaster work, “Rolling Basketball,” in the Cavaliers’ home arena as part of a redesign by team majority owner Dan Gilbert, which put together more than 100 pieces. Nearly two dozen other artists, including Nina Chanel Abni and KAWS, surround the building.

This month, Arsham opens the solo show “Le Modular du Basketball” in Marseille, France, which will transform the upper floor of the Le Corbusier building into a space inspired by the gym, with works combining the visual language of a famous architect. The world of basketball.

Wood, 45, is one of the most avid basketball fans in the art world, using the game and his own nostalgia for inspiration. He raised Bird and often played pickup games with other artists when he first moved to Los Angeles two decades ago. Today his studio has two rings, a huge basketball-shaped couch and countless other basketball talents.

“Basketball is a rock ‘n’ roll,” said Wood, who has Clippers subscription tickets and often finds visuals for his portraits on trading cards. “This is hip-hop. This is the cash register. “

Marty Eisenberg, a prominent New York-based collector, owns several of Wood’s paintings, including a 2004 portrait of a bird he compared to a Baby Ruth card.

But Eisenberg is haunted by those who escaped: a painting by Chris Kaman, a former Clippers center, from Wood’s first solo show at the Black Dragon Society in Los Angeles in 2006. Eisenberg skipped this work and bought it. California Art Dealer Jeff Poe. Pieces of wood today are often estimated at six figures.

“Poe always tells me that he owns a portrait of Chris Kaman,” Eisenberg said. “This is one of the best works of Jonas Wood. And at the time it was, what, a thousand dollars. ”

Since then the game has penetrated into every corner of the art world.

Last year, renowned portrait artist Cahind Willie started selling basketballs for $ 175 depicting his 2017 painting “Death of St. Joseph” for $ 175 to benefit his nonprofit art organization in Senegal. (Plastic ball stand for sale separately, for $ 35.)

Hebru Brentley, the artist whose work was collected by Jay-Z and Beyoncé, recently created graffiti-style basketballs for the Wilson sports brand, while Mr. Brainwash, a French street artist, created his own “vandalized basketball” last year. .

Even the Museum of Modern Art sells a basketball created by Italian multidisciplinary artist Marco Ogiani for $ 119.

Against the background of all this, one can easily forget that the art world is not completely overtaken by hoop lovers, that there are plenty of art lovers who are not happy to realize the game.

Jack Eisenberg, an advisor to Art Intelligence Global and a basketball fan (and Marty Eisenberg’s son), smiled as he recalled attending an opening in New York a few years ago and went out to parties to watch a big college game.

“I told them, ‘I have to go watch Syracuse against the Duke,'” he said.

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