Way back in December 2016, soon after jjheritage had been launched as a company, Jean was invited to a workshop at the National Football Museum, (NFM) in Manchester concerning Football’s Public Monuments. This was part of a four year project ‘The Art of Collecting Football’ led by academic input from Professor Mike O’Mahony of Bristol University and supported by a Heritage Lottery Fund grant of £199,900. The project sought to develop the NFM art collection through the acquisition of priority works that have been 1. inspired by or 2. depicting football and its wider cultural influence.
This chimed with jjheritage’s interest in the World Cup as a cultural event and, more specifically, the history of world cup posters, mascots and trademarks. Jean has now published a chapter, with a specific on the 1966 World Cup in England and how this changed the marketing strategy of future World Cup tournaments, in an edited collection led by Daniel Haxall called Picturing the Beautiful Game (Bloomsbury Academic, 2018).
Much of the research for that chapter took place at the world-class stores of the National Football Museum in Preston and in the Zurich archives of FIFA. But with the launch of a new exhibition, Football is Art, in 2019 we can now see the culmination of this project, and Jean attended the preview event on 4 April 2019. The preview suggests that this will be incredibly popular with the National Football Museum’s public and could reach out to people who do not necessarily feel themselves to be football fans and prefer art galleries.
The FA and Arts Council Football and Fine Art competition of 1953
L.S. Lowry's now-iconic Going To The Match won the inaugural Football And Fine Arts competition, held jointly by The FA and the newly-formed Arts Council in 1953. This was purchased in 1999 by the Professional Footballers’ Association (PFA) for £1.9 million, after it was reportedly declined by David Beckham because Victoria expressed her distate at the painting.
At the time the price was a record for a Lowry, and the highest paid for a British artist, according to Sotheby’s auction house. This was exhibited to mark the PFA’s centenary in 2008 at Manchester Art Gallery but has otherwise been on display at The Lowry along with other PFA purchases.
So although the National Football Museum exhibition cannot display the winner, the FA and Arts Council collaboration was an unprecedented focal moment in seeking to encourage new fine art about football, and many other contemporary artists who sent in work in 1953 are represented.
Existing Works and New Acquisitions
The Football is Art exhibition was a mix of new acquisitions and existing works owned by the NFM, ranging from Aardman animation house, to Banksy, and a £40,000 sculpture Footballeur by Pablo Picasso, who was famously a Barcelona fan in the 1960s before moving to Paris. Equally proud of his heritage, Bradford-born David Hockney, featured football in many of his paintings and is also represented. L.S. Lowry, Joan Miró, Paul Nash also feature, as do posters, sculpture, fashion, multi media collages and Batik work. Contemporary artists and illustrators feature strongly in the exhibition including Michael J. Browne, Stanley Chow, Jill Iliffe and Marcus Marritt. Gary Armer, who has previously been an artist in residence at the museum, was represented by Not a Penny More featuring in the ‘Despair’ section, a portrait of a dejected Blackpool FC supporter under the Oyston family regime.
Perhaps the finest work on display is a recent acquisition, Mid-week practice at Stamford Bridge by Lawrence Toynbee, originally submitted as part of the Football and the Fine Arts exhibition in 1953, where it won one of the main prizes alongside Lowry’s Going to the Match. Another standout piece of the exhibition was Jean Cocteau’s disarmingly simple line drawing Football Annonciation, 1923.
The National Football Museum already owned influential British surrealist Ithell Colquhoun's The Game Of The Year, created in 1953. The title probably refers to the Blackpool vs Bolton Wanderers FA Cup Final, but there is no record of the painting being entered into the FA art competition.
Gerald A. Cains' Saturday Taxpayers was entered into the 1953 competition. The oil on canvas painting of crowds relaxedly filling a stand was entered just before the competitions closed, after the picture apparently came to the artist in a dream about his local team Portsmouth. He was the youngest artist to enter, aged just 22.
The title refers to the fact that Entertainment Tax had first been levied on professional football since 1916 as a wartime measure and were still in place, although protests had taken place. Hence, perhaps, the tone of reflective anticipation.
And the art on display at the NFM is not limited to the exhibition. Pieces on display in the main galleries include leading contemporary artists, including Michael J. Browne known for The Art of the Game 1997 and other subsequent large scale and high profile projects, including The Transfiguration of George Best 2008.
The Art of the Game is one of jjheritage’s favourite painting in the wealth of treasures available at The National Football Museum.
Football-related public art
The December 2016 workshop on public monuments set their relatively recent rise as a widespread phenomenon in this historical context, not least thanks to the groundbreaking work of Chris Stride, Ffion Thomas, and John Wilson and their comprehensive database From Pitch to Plinth: Sporting Statues Project (for more information on the project see www.offbeat.group.shef.ac.uk/statues). As public confidence in politicians and other figures historically commemorated by public statuary, sports stars have more recently been commemorated due to public fundraising, and civic projects. These works are, by their very nature, outside of the walls of institutions such as the National Football Museum, and in the public domain at specific sites of memorialization. So that workshop could lead to more of a focus on sporting statuary, and the process of making such art.
Football as an inherently visual sport
Since football is an inherently visual medium, the opportunities for amplifying the project and the exhibition are almost infinitely variable. Just as Jean’s own work on football posters is now developing to look at regional representations and to the unsuccessful World Cup posters and competitions, the theme of football and art is likely to grow as a specialism across a number of sectors.
Looking to the future, Jean had a go at the @tiltbrush Virtual Reality in the Score Gallery, and enjoyed the different features of the digital creation with its many options, including DISCO which sends pulses of light along the lines drawn by the operator. Great fun! #FootballisArt
Posts written by Jean or Joanna.