World Cup gives art a boost
Cape Town - From stark photographs of African children chasing a home-made soccer ball to sleek bronze footballers sculpted in mid-kick - the buzz around the 2010 World Cup has also made its way into art.
Photography, fantasy art, abstract works and sculpture will be shown at various points around the globe in a project to boost excitement over the world's biggest sporting event, held for the first time in Africa.
A South African company called 2010 Fine Art has acquired the global license to produce art under the international football federation Fifa brand to celebrate the month-long tournament that opens next June.
It plans both "international" exhibitions, featuring artists from the 32 World Cup qualifying countries, and shows solely by African artists - the latter to promote art on the continent and break through stereotypes about what constitutes "African" art.
"Both the international project and the African project are bringing the World Cup top of mind of people who perhaps ordinarily would not be aware of the World Cup," said Rob Spaull, general manager of the 2010 Fine Art venture.
Bringing people together
"What we are trying to do is much what the World Cup does. It brings together people of very different backgrounds with very different interests from very different cultures," he said.
Five artists from each qualifying nation are being commissioned to produce original pieces inspired either by Africa, the pride of their own country's participation or the energy and passion of the tournament.
Johannesburg-born photographer Clint Strydom said he "was inspired by the rural game of soccer and the way it is played".
His black-and-white series entitled "Real Heroes", now showing in a Cape Town gallery and in Bloemfontein, a World Cup host city, captures children playing football on beaches in the country's east, on an unspoiled stretch known as the "Wild Coast".
"There is always a kid bouncing a worn out ball or kicking a bunch of plastic bags that have been wrapped together, or a village team training on a dusty, sloping field," he said.
Despite dismal conditions, "they all play with a passion and energy that is beautiful to watch".
The international collection will start showing in December during the final draw though a "teaser" was unveiled at the project launch here in April - an abstract painting by pre-eminent British pop artist Peter Phillips entitled "Africa Twirl".
Other "names" such as Spain's Eleazar who plays with urban codes, Argentina's Pablo di Masso, Australia's Richard Birmingham and Japan's Kimi Sakaki have signed up to produce pieces.
Their works will be simultaneously exhibited in 32 cities around the world in early 2010 and reproduced for sale in limited edition prints.
Strydom is part of the African collection, which started showing in host cities during the current Confederations Cup and will include sculpture and photography.
It has spawned a search for artists, not only to highlight hidden talent on the continent, but to dispel notions that reduce African art to streetside curios bought by tourists - hundreds of thousands of whom will flock to South Africa for next year's games.
"We are looking for artists with beautiful talent that have never really broken into the scene before," Spaull said.
Kenyan artist Waiguru Gitau, often called Taju and known for his paintings of personified cows, has created a World Cup series called "Cows Love Football Too".
"It's a really big opportunity for African artists like myself," he said. "For years we have heard how massive an opportunity the World Cup will be not just for South Africa but for all of Africa."
Photographer Strydom, meanwhile, saw no contradiction in producing art for a sporting event. "Soccer in particular is a beautiful game and there is art to be captured in the skill and passion with which it is played," he said.