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The art of being interested in sport
lart-de-sinteresser-au-sport - ARTACTIF
July 2024 | Reading time: 21 Min | 0 Comment(s)

About the relationship between art and sport to which Beaux Arts Magazine is devoting a richly documented 14-page dossier in May 2024.

Seeing in Beaux Arts Magazine the full-page reproduction of Two Runners One Behind the Other, a sculpture by Paul Richer dating from the end of the 19th century, I immediately thought of the monumental plaster which sits in the middle of the exhibition dedicated to Alfred Boucher, whom I had the chance to visit at the Camille Claudel museum, in Nogent-sur-Seine: Au But, a group of three runners defying weightlessness in an equally modern and astonishing way. Crowdfunding has also been launched by the Nogent museum if you are interested in purchasing a work of art in part, in order to be able to melt down this impressive work of art again, including the original, which adorned in At his time the Luxembourg Gardens, in Paris, was destroyed by the Nazis to manufacture weapons. Brief. It’s crazy how the rise of modern Olympics, and at the same time that of sport as we practice it today, inspired these 19th century artists trained in ancient art and anatomy.

Of course, sport and art have been going together for a long time! So in this year of the Olympic Games in Paris, obviously, the subject does not spare the art market and the world of contemporary art. As someone who has no interest in sport at all, I am well aware that I am not going to give it up... As a good cultural journalist, Sophie Flouquet, journalist for Beaux Arts Magazine, nevertheless asked herself the question: “Do art and sport really go well together? And what will the Olympics bring to culture? » No less than fourteen pages are devoted to the theme announced on the cover of the magazine: “Art & Sport”. Because “everyone has noticed, the summer high mass of Olympic and Paralympic sport in Paris, which will open in July, is already taking center stage, including culturally. »

The art critic and curator of the stripping and iconoclastic triptych of exhibitions proposed in Marseille on the theme of art and sport, Jean-Marc Huitorel, is categorical: “Although both are capable of producing beauty, sport is not art and art is not sport. » Their tenuous relationship is also relatively recent, as Sophie Flouquet judiciously points out. “If the imagination of the ancient athlete quickly resurfaced at the end of the 19th century, in the context of the resurrection of the Olympic Games led by the very reactionary and misogynistic Baron Pierre de Coubertin (at least that is said), the practice of physical activity in Antiquity never had anything to do with that of modern sport. The Greeks certainly valued physical exploits, but they always took place within the framework of warlike activities or celebrations of religious or funerary cults. The Olympic Games themselves had a religious vocation – this was also the case for the practice of the ball game in Mesoamerica. There was simply never any question of playing or having fun. » Damn!

We learn in the exhibition “In play! Artists and sport (1870-1930) from the Marmottan Monet museum in Paris, that it was in reality England which colored modern sport at the dawn of the industrial era, and which spread it to internationally as a movement that is ultimately very hygienic, affirming the benefits of sport on health. A new relationship with the body was then imposed, modesty being forced to lower its tone, at the same time giving a little boost to the emancipation of women. Sport is then perhaps no longer religious or warlike, but it remains no less political, encouraged for example by the elites to “let off steam” among the people. To sculpt silhouettes, too. Later taken up by Nazi propaganda to promote the cult of the “perfect man”…

Enough to nourish the artists' taste for observation, who will not lose a moment of all aspects of sport over time. Especially since the end of the 19th century, they have emancipated themselves from the framework of the workshop with their tubes of color and their portable easels, and can now feast on these full and loose strokes evolving in the open air to renew their works of art for sale: so they don't deprive themselves of it!

While Degas assiduously frequented the horse racing society in the 1860s, Toulouse-Lautrec frequented the Buffalo velodrome, run by the writer Tristan Bernard, a cycling enthusiast, and the regattas organized on the banks of the Seine brought delight to Monets and Caillebottes. , Sisley or Renoir. The poet Arthur Cravan even performs in boxing gyms, where Van Dongen strives to capture the feverish atmosphere with the tip of his brush. As for George Bellows, he doesn't hide that he knows nothing about the rules of boxing but "wants to depict men trying to kill each other"... Brrr... it's chilling. The dialogue provoked in the Beaux Arts magazine between his painting entitled Stag at Sharkey's, dated 1909, and the sculpture by Louka Anargyros, dated 2020 and taking the opposite view from the archetypal virilist image linked to certain sports, here showing a big hug between two car racers, tells a good story of the weariness of violence that has finally come with time...

Yes, as Sophie Flouquet notes, “the porosity is real between the world of sport and that of art”. Coubertin himself in his time invited painters and sculptors to take an interest in the melee, in these tangles of arms and legs, in these chests which collide and these hands which clench. To bear witness to the beauty of the effort in works of art for sale which will be a hit with art galleries in particular, and the contemporary art market in general. Because I remind you that all art has once been contemporary. The kinetic images born from the invention of chronophotography in 1882 to represent movement greatly inspired painters and sculptors, and from the beginning of the 20th century, the reproduction of an image from several points of view simultaneously will give birth of Cubism, with Albert Gleizes, Jean Metzinger, André Lhote and Lyonel Feininger, while the Italian futurists exalted from 1909 the beauty of speed and the “machine man”. Robert Delaunay will throw his shapes and colors into the fray, Nicolas de Staël will take the Parc des Princes to the edge of abstraction...

When we see Philippe Parreno and Douglas Gordon establish the footballer Zinedine Zidane as an artist in his own right with their film installation in 17 giant panels, or Michael Browne represent Eric Cantona in a Piero della Francesca-style resurrection, we measure the extent to which the universe sportsman is a real artistic material. But indeed, in the same way that paint in its tube is not art, sport without artistic sublimation is not art... Besides, as far as I am concerned, the only football football that interests me is indeed in leather, signed by Fabrice Hyber… but it is square.


Valibri en RoulotteArticle written by Valibri in Roulotte

Illustration: At the Goal - BOUCHER Alfred (1850-1934)
1886 - Bronze (cast iron) - H. 45.8 cm • L. 69 cm • D. 35 cm
Origin: Purchase with the participation of FRAM Champagne-Ardenne Inventory number: 1994.2
Copyright: Camille Claudel museum / Marco Illuminati

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