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Art & Sport

The bi-annual Basil Sellers Art Prize (see my entry about the Basil Seller Art Prize)has made me think and write more about art and sport. It is one of the intentions of the art prize not just to have an exhibition and a prize but to encourage a dialogue about art and sport.

This is not the first time that someone has tried to bridge the gap between the arts and sports. In the USA there is the National Art Museum of Sport at Indiana University. NAMOS was founded in 1959 in New York City by Germain G. Glidden, a portrait artist and champion squash player with a strong belief in sport and art as universal languages understood and appreciated by all people. NAMOS’s collection includes paintings by George Bellows, Henry Rousseau and Andrew Wyeth. Also in August of this year there was a football themed art shoe at the Bega Regional Gallery that Megan Bottari reviewed in her blog Glass Central Canberra.

There are some notable artists who had active sporting lives: the Fauvist Maurice de Vlaminck did cycle racing, British painter Ben Nicholson was a keen tennis and ping pong player and contemporary American video artist, Matthew Barney was on his high school wrestling and football teams. And two of the most famous artists of the 20th Century, Man Ray and Marcel Duchamp, met over a game of totem tennis, providing an initial bond at a time when Man Ray spoke only English and Marcel Duchamp only French.

Enough of this sports/art trivia; moving on to some serious thoughts…

When I was a post-graduate student studying the philosophy of art I was presented with a problem by a philosopher. Aliens arrive on Earth, just outside Canberra. They are friendly but we can hardly communicate with them. To improve communications the aliens want to have a cultural exchange tour. The cultural exchange is a group of aliens who jump up and down for a period of time. Who should fund this cultural exchange the department of sports or arts?

Art and sport, whatever they are, is a cultural expression of excess. There are other cultural expressions that deal with the excesses in a culture from jokes to religion they come in many forms. The excess that must be dealt with is everything from an excess of time, energy, food or any other resources. If this excess is not dealt with through some cultural expression then it becomes threatening pollution. The excess of sport and art is contained within an area, within refined and controlled movements and within the idea of art or sport.

Art and sport maybe substitutes for religion and culture amongst people who have been displaced by modernization. They provide a reason, a connection with something greater and give additional meaning to life.

Time for a match of three-sided football, a sport invented by Danish artist Asger Jorn.

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About Mark Holsworth

Writer, independent researcher and artist, Mark Holsworth is the author of the book Sculptures of Melbourne. View all posts by Mark Holsworth

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