Next week sees the thrilling end of the World Cup with four great teams battling it out for the winner’s glory. There has been much focus on prints, posters and street art to celebrate the world of football, but what of sculpture, which is more permanent than the peripatetic FIFA World Cup or an ice sculpture in somewhere like Brugges. Much of the sculpture that exists, as is also the case with other sports, is traditional representational sculpture of famous footballers, often located outside the stadium in which they achieved great success, or a variety of depictions of footballs, sometimes at quite a large scale. More interesting perhaps is the poignant sculpture by Duncan Stewart of a boy clutching his football – a figure of hope – on the steps of Grahamstown Cathedral in South Africa in 2010. “The sculpture communicates the essence of what personal hope looks like, yet doing so through an unconventional alliance between art and sport in our country.”
Three artists however stand out. Canadian visual artist Kristi Malakoff has constructed a series of sculptures from a variety of paper currencies from around the world. One of these is a football – what is she saying about the link between money and football? Peter Jansen, the Dutch artist, created stunning kinetic sculptures of a variety of sportsmen and women that highlighted the pace and speed that the best of these sportsmen achieve, as if caught in a slow photograph. In 2012, as part of an initiative at the London Olympics, Hamish Black created a limited-edition bronze sculpture called “The Kick” – “The sound of a kick when recorded in stereo and displayed as a wave is an abstraction. As part of that recording process stereo images are produced. The top and bottom hemispheres are the re-combination of these images. The goalkeeper’s gloves give a contrast of identity and act to balance and cushion an apparent spinning object”.
In 2006, when Germany hosted the FIFA World Cup, a series of sculptures was created to demonstrate Germany‘s history of innovation. Each sculpture symbolised the ideas and inventiveness which characterised Germany‘s scientists and engineers. The first sculpture, a 12m-long ‘Modern Football Shoe’, was developed by the Dassler family. (The brothers Dassler, Adolf (Adi) and Rudolf, were the founders of Adidas and Puma.) Others sculptures included Theory of Relativity, Medical Milestones, The Automobile, Modern Printing and Musical Masterpieces.
One of the more interesting, but temporary, sculptures was created by Nike for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa – “Ball Man” was a 20 metres high Nike installation in the Carlton Mall Atrium in Johannesburg promoting the firm’s kits and boots for the World Cup. Sadly, despite opening a football-only store in Rio de Janeiro, Nike do not seem to have repeated this in 2014. They did however create a 3D- printed bag for selected players: “We wanted to create something that was truly special for the game’s greatest players,” said Martin Lotti, creative director for Nike Football. “We did this by utilising one of the most cutting edge technologies, 3D printing, to make a bag that is unlike anything else.”
The 2018 FIFA World Cup is being hosted in Russia – perhaps it can do something innovative and interesting with sculpture as part of its art programme?