In 1953, the national Football and the Fine Arts competition and accompanying exhibition was held to help break down barriers between football and art. Submissions came from esteemed names including LS Lowry, who won with his hugely popular painting ‘Going to the Match’. Yet, over 65 years later, a divide still seems to exist. While the beautiful game is often described by fans as an art form in itself, we’re less used to seeing match day scenes depicted in prominent galleries.
bringing together over 70 artworks and sculptures by artists ranging from Picasso to Banksy
Football is Art at National Football Museum does a good job of redressing this imbalance, however, bringing together over 70 artworks and sculptures by artists ranging from Picasso to Banksy that demonstrate the richness of the pitch as an arena for creative expression. The exhibition is said to be the first time such a wide range of art depicting the game has been brought together in one place, with many of the pieces having never been on public display in a museum before in the UK.
Some of the show’s more unusual highlights include a line drawing by Jean Cocteau – better known for his work as a pioneering French filmmaker. Other pieces bring a more political dimension into the mix, like Jill Illiffe’s uplifting painting, ‘Banned’, in which two Muslim women wearing headscarves and football boots leap through the air in pursuit of the ball. Award-winning photographer Mandy Barker, meanwhile, turns her lens on what appears like a floating asteroid belt of plastic footballs in her photograph, ‘Penalty – The World’, as part of an ongoing campaign to raise awareness around marine pollution.
Some of the show’s more unusual highlights include a line drawing by Jean Cocteau – better known for his work as a pioneering French filmmaker.
Any fan will tell you that clothing plays an important role in football culture too, and several of the works within the exhibition have inspired a new range of sportswear designed by Fashion Design and Technology students from the Manchester Fashion Institute (MMU), which feature throughout the space. Football also takes pride in being a sport ‘for everyone’, and visitors have the chance to get involved themselves by creating their own 3D interactive artworks using Google Tilt Brush.
In many ways, the emotion, spectacle and atmosphere of a heated match and the vast crowds of loyal supporters that the game draws makes it a perfect subject for art. The works included in the show span nearly 100 years, reflecting how long artists have been awake to the fact themselves. The question is, why after all this time is football still an underrepresented subject within the wider realm of contemporary art? Hopefully Football is Art represents another important step towards correcting this.
Whilst you’re at National Football Museum, check out Roy of Rovers – a pop-up exhibition that celebrates the 65th anniversary of football’s most gripping characters, Roy of the Rovers – and take advantage of one of the museum’s daily free guided tours.