A collection of the most fascinating and monumental works of art influenced by sports

The link between sports and art is a simply eternal one, whose main point of contact is probably the greatest freedom of expression. Art and sports are a global language that can not only unite different cultures and personalities, but also two diametrically opposed universes such as the sacred and the profane.

Through the installation “Untitled (plot for dialogue)” created at the Converso space in Milan, the American artist Asad Raza identified tennis as the trait d’union between sport and the religious dimension. The evocative Sixteenth century setting of the deconsecrated church of San Paolo Converso was curiously transformed into a sort of tennis club where to find opponents, coaches and a good cup of jasmine tea. Through the typical tennis repartee, Raza revolutionizes the vertical communication pattern that characterizes most religious beliefs. The absolute silence during these strange matches is another point of contact with the concentration imposed during a church service.

A green meadow, trees. That between nature, sports and art is a complex relationship where spatiality often plays a key role. In 2019, Swiss artist Klaus Littmann creates “For Forest,” an impactful art installation where the sporting and natural spheres come together in one universe.

Inspired by Max Peinter’s drawing “The Endless Spectacle of Nature,” Littmann covered the entire turf of Klagenfurt’s Wörthersee Stadion with as many as two hundred and ninety-nine different trees representing much of Europe’s forest variety. Commonly associated with sporting events involving tens of thousands of spectators, Littmann’s nature spectacle is not just about celebrating biodiversity, but is intended to invite as many people as possible to reflect on the importance of safeguarding an asset as precious as nature itself.

The burning sand, the scorching summer heat. Groups of friends and a ball. What seems to be a rather ordinary summer scenario is turned upside down by the artistic genius of Benedetto Bufalino.

On the occasion of the International Biennial of Contemporary Art in Anglet, the Italian-French artist has created an installation that masterfully combines art and sports: what from above would look like an ordinary soccer field is actually a kind of sports fortress composed of small walls that serve as the lines of the field. The unique soccer field created by Bufalino is similar to a childlike construction made out of LEGOs, where athletic sacrifice and collaboration among teammates is crucial given the difficulties created by the little walls.

Revolutionizing the monotony of urban space. Giving new life to gray suburban buildings. Art, once again, proves to be an excellent means of redeveloping seemingly forgotten spaces such as those of the banlieu. That between the French artist JR and Brazil is an intense, living bond. Begun with in 2008 with the work “Women Are Heroes” created in Moro de Providencia, it continued at the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, where the transalpine decided to pay homage to the world’s most important sporting event with gigantic art installations representing three Olympic athletes.

While Sudanese jumper Younes Idris conquers the roofs of a building on Avenida Rui Barbosa, Cleuson Lima Do Rosario looks ready to dive into the sea at home in Barra da Tijuca. JR’s latest athlete of choice is Léonie Périault, gold medalist in triathlon at the 2018 Glasgow Europeans, who slices through the waters of Botafogo Beach in this installation. Sport is undoubtedly rooted in popular culture, which is why the French street artist chose athletes usually far from the spotlight for his sensational works.

The creation of interactive works allows the union of the individual and collective spheres, as demonstrated by the works created by Koo Jeong A and the German collective Inges Idee.

At the Milan Triennale, the South Korean artist created “OooOoO,” a fluorescent multisensory skatepark that incentivizes visitors to actively participate in the space.

Revisiting the common human-space relationship is also the concept behind Inges Idee’s installation: what apparently looks like a simple playground is actually a complex system of small bumps, flatter areas, dynamic spots and nooks and crannies where one can relax. In both works it is the visitor himself who disrupts his relationship with the space, becoming the main architect of an anarchic personal and spatial revolution.

Although the number of sports-themed art installations is still limited, the link between sports and art is one that offers endless possibilities for creative development. All we have to do is find out which stadium or sport will be revolutionized next.

Text by Filippo Vianello