For World Cup, the beautiful game plays out on museum walls

Wed Jan 29, 2014 6:39am EST
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By Mary Milliken

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Petra Cortright played soccer for 14 years so she was very adept at making a video of herself wearing a pink glowing bathing suit and juggling a ball, or rather an IKEA soccer pillow, which was what she had on hand when inspiration struck.

Now the 27-year-old Los Angeles artist finds herself and that webcam video in the company of Andy Warhol and his 1978 portrait of Pele and 50 other works of art by 30 artists celebrating the so-called "beautiful game" in this year of the World Cup in Brazil.

"Futbol: The Beautiful Game", takes place a mere 10,000 kilometers (6,300 miles) from Rio de Janeiro, at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art or LACMA, where a curator bitten by soccer has assembled a show about the mythic, the heroic, the poetic and the violent manifestations of the game.

"Timed with the World Cup, it seems like an opportunity to think about some of the things I love about the game, perhaps in a more artistic and intellectual way," said Franklin Sirmans, the 44-year-old curator and head of contemporary art at LACMA, who was inspired early on by Pele and the Cosmos in his native New York.

The exhibition reflects the global nature of the game, from paintings by an artist obsessed by English club Manchester United to a Colombian artist who shoots a video of a pick-up game in a small courtyard to a photograph of North African slippers bearing a Nike-like swoosh.

Although the United States might not match the passion of other countries for the sport, Los Angeles is arguably its most soccer-mad city with two Major League Soccer teams and a large Hispanic population. "Futbol," the Spanish word for soccer, was chosen for the show's title to denote the international character of the city.


When Sirmans went looking for soccer art, one of the first pieces in mind was the object he chose to greet visitors to the exhibition - a mini rendering of Rio's Maracana Stadium, where the World Cup final will be played in July, by Brazilian artist Nelson Leirner. It is full of different figurines like Buddhas and Japanese beckoning cats, all surrounded by Jesus figures.   Continued...

Curator Franklin Sirmans gestures near "Free Throw" by Mary Ellen Caroll during construction of the exhibition, "Futbol: The Beautiful Game", at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) in Los Angeles, California, January 27, 2014. REUTERS/David McNew