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The art of the World Cup

“I am conscious of the ball, but I am also conscious that I am not the ball. I desire to possess the ball. My project is to become a for-itself-in-itself a synthesis of self and non-self, in other words, God.” – Jean Paul Sartre, Being and Nothingness While Sartre’s words may be considered blasphemous by …


“I am conscious of the ball, but I am also conscious that I am not the ball. I desire to possess the ball. My project is to become a for-itself-in-itself a synthesis of self and non-self, in other words, God.” – Jean Paul Sartre, Being and Nothingness

While Sartre’s words may be considered blasphemous by many ardent football supporters, the irony is the same supporters can stand accused of worshipping footballers, and following football like a religion.

Although it was the English who formally conceptualized the game as we know it today in 1863, football has been played in a variety of forms as far back as 3000 years ago. The Chinese, Japanese, Italians, Ancient Greeks, Persians and Vikings are all known to have enjoyed kicking a ball around.

Perhaps it’s no wonder then that for some, football is not like a religion; it is a religion providing solace.

With the 2010 Football World Cup currently taking place for the first time on African soil, the biggest sporting event on the planet has attracted a record half a billion viewers from across the world. Here in South Africa, the energy and atmosphere is metaphysically tangible. Almost everyone has gone football crazy. Vuvuzelas, the plastic horns which have come to symbolize the South African World Cup, blare at all hours. Flags of all nations wave proudly from homes, businesses and cars. The politically apathetic are now staunch nationalists, fervently supporting the national team. The event has transformed the country.

What is it about this beautiful game that moves people to zeniths and nadirs of ecstasy and pain? How are such raw feelings evoked? Does football speak to the soul of fanatics of the game? Is football truly art in its truest form?

The 2010 World Cup has served as a significant platform to promote Africa and African culture, and football and art aficionados can debate how closely intertwined the relationship between football and art is, with the 2010 Fine Art Collection, a visual celebration of the world’s most-watched sporting event. Showcasing leading African and international contemporary artists, the 2010 Fine Art project is one of the largest and most ambitious international art collaborations in history. And it is the first time in the 80-year history of the FIFA World Cup that fine art on this scale has been recognized as Official Licensed Products by FIFA — another proudly South African first for 2010.

More than 400 pieces make up the four collections, with works by 22 African artists representing nine countries in the first collection. The series of football-themed artworks mostly capture the spirit that surrounds the game. Mozambican born Isaac Sithole, who now resides in South Africa, created a piece which quirkily represents the South African football fan: A minibus taxi and bakkie (pick-up truck) are on their way to a game, crammed with people blowing vuvuzelas.

South African Keith Calder chose bronze as his medium, carving an exquisite sculpture of a footballer in motion, delicately balancing a ball on the tip of his foot, while his arms extend behind him.

The second collection comprises of 160 paintings by artists from each of the 32 participating countries. Flags from these countries make up the third collection. Signed ‘Africa salutes you’ by Nelson Mandela, the proceeds from the sale of these paintings will go toward Mvezo, the birthplace of Mandela.

The fourth collection has football lovers salivating. Pelé, the Brazilian soccer legend, has used the 2010 World Cup to launch his own art. He was helped by South African artist Athol Moult to create The Art of Pelé. The works trace his career and life from a humble beginning in Brazil to the icon he is today.

Acrylic paints and canvas, pigment ink and paper, reveal Edson Arrantes do Nascimento in a new form. Moult captured the highlights of Pelé’s much acclaimed career, and the man football fans revere, added depth by re-living those moments in word and emotion.

Pelé is currently in South Africa, and buyers of the reproduced prints were rewarded with personalized autographs by the legend.

Graham Britz, a fine arts auctioneer summed it up thus, "In the same way that the 2010 African and International collections represent the torch that South Africa took up from Germany, the Art of Pele collection bridges the gap between 2010 and 2014 as we start to look towards passing the torch in turn to Brazil."

 

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A painting from the 2010 Fine Art Collection.

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A painting from the 2010 Fine Art Collection.

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