Sirmans ’91: Football as art

By Caroline MacNeille '16

[Franklin Sirmans '91]Franklin Sirmans ’91 curated “Fútbol: The Beautiful Game” for the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA). He has worked as an independent curator, editor, writer and lecturer. At Wesleyan, Franklin majored in Art History and English.

The exhibit will be on display from Feb. 2 through Jul. 20, 2014.

AMERICAN interest in football is on the rise: they're watching it on television and showing up for more games. Roughly 13m of them play football, making it the country's third-most-popular participation sport, behind basketball and baseball. The New York City Football Club, a joint venture between the New York Yankees baseball team and Manchester City football club, will become the 20th Major League Soccer (MLS) club when it makes its debut next year.

With this in mind, and in advance of the forthcoming World Cup in Brazil, Los Angeles—the only American city with two MLS teams—is hosting an exhibition dedicated to the sport. "Fútbol: The Beautiful Game" at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art will showcase more than 50 works by 30 artists which aim to explore nationalism, identity, globalism, mass spectacle and other themes often associated with the sport and its fans.

"We have some iconic works—addressing heroes—that are accessible, and others about myth and fantasy that you have to look harder at and feel the nuances," says the curator, Franklin Sirmans. "The critiques throughout are subtle."

...other works dig a bit deeper: some address how class might determine access to the sport, others tackle themes of stadium violence and hooliganism. One piece explores the homoeroticism of team celebrations, according to Mr Sirmans. How effectively these works will generate new discussion about the sport is unclear. Mr Sirmans argues that football brings people together physically, at a time of isolating technology. "The collectivity of the game, at a time when we further individualise ourselves on networks like Facebook, feels significant to me," he says. "The stadium is the one place where we still have collective behaviour."

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Image: by Julia Galdo

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