With "The World's Game," PAMM Examines Fútbol Through Art

Samuel Eto'o (2010) by Kehinde Wiley.
Samuel Eto'o (2010) by Kehinde Wiley. Photo by Travis Cohen
Fútbol is far and away the most beloved sport on the planet. Even in Miami, where the game is often eclipsed by the Miami Heat, the Dolphins, and the Marlins, soccer has an enormous devout following. Now, before that following has a chance to cheer in the stands of this city's own MLS pitch, they'll be able to enjoy their love of the game at a museum.

"The World's Game: Fútbol and Contemporary Art" is a new exhibition that will be on display at Pérez Art Museum Miami (PAMM) this Friday, April 13, through September 2. The multimedia show looks at soccer in ways that revere, revile, and reimagine the pastime and that often transcend the world of sports.

"At base, it is an exhibition that is about passion, that is about a love, that is about this universal sort of common language, as we call it, that is the game of football," says Franklin Sirmans, director of PAMM and one of the curators of the show. "And these kinds of conversations that you’ll see in the artworks drive big questions, big ideas."

Those ideas run the gamut, from positive visions of nationalism, such as Miguel Calderón's 90-minute film, Mexico vs Brazil, that splices together years of footage to show the artist's home country beating Brazil 17-nil, to indictments of colonialism, such as British artist Satch Hoyt's sculpture Kick That, which features a gaudy black and silver ball emblazoned with euro symbols resting atop a tripod of bananas.

Some pieces on display are more directly linked to the game as most people relate to it. One room is essentially an homage to the hero worship that has long been a central part of fútbol fandom, including a wall devoted to Brazil's soccer messiah, Pelé, with works by artists such as Andy Warhol and LeRoy Neiman.
click to enlarge Maracanã (2003) by Nelson Leirner. - PHOTO BY TRAVIS COHEN
Maracanã (2003) by Nelson Leirner.
Photo by Travis Cohen
"This is not artists who just made one-offs about the game," Sirmans explains. "These are artists who have big careers and have made works in a variety of ways and happen to also share this passion for the game that comes up in their work."

Spectators will be met by artwork from the past four decades. Many of the highlights are conceptual pieces that are loosely related to the game and that tackle a wide array of subject matters, from third-party ownership to cultural appropriation of tribal peoples in Brazil to masculinity and homosexuality in Costa Rica.

Other installations reference specific moments from the history of fútbol, ranging from Paul Pfeiffer's Caryatid (Red, Yellow, Blue) — a supercut of players flopping on the pitch played across three TV sets — to Hank Willis Thomas' vibrant fiberglass sculpture Hand of God, which recalls Diego Maradona's legendary goal against England in the 1986 World Cup.
click to enlarge Hand of God (2017) by Hank Willis Thomas. - PHOTO BY TRAVIS COHEN
Hand of God (2017) by Hank Willis Thomas.
Photo by Travis Cohen
According to PAMM's director, the exhibition, which will be on display through the World Cup this summer, will likely receive a warm welcome from Miamians because of their special connection with soccer.

"This city has a relationship to fútbol that is unlike any other city in the country," Sirmans says. "The passion for the game and the way that people relate to it is completely different. Some people say, ‘It might not be as strong because you do not have an MLS team.’ My feeling is that it’s so strong and it’s so smart that the level of artistry associated with the game that people know here in Miami is different from the game that is played here in this country."

A party at PAMM Thursday from 6 to 11 p.m. will celebrate Friday's opening of the exhibition. The event, which is open to the public, will include performances by spoken-word poet Marc Bamuthi Joseph, Latin Grammy-nominated musical artist Mr. Pauer, and drum ensemble Batería Unidos de Miami.

"The World's Game: Fútbol and Contemporary Art." Friday, April 13, through September 2 at Pérez Art Museum Miami, 1103 Biscayne Blvd., Miami; Admission costs $16 for adults and $12 for students, seniors, and youth aged 7 to 18; museum members, active U.S. military, and kids 6 and under get in free.
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Travis Cohen is a writer for Miami New Times and covers subjects ranging from arts and architecture to marijuana and monkeys with herpes. He graduated with honors from Vanderbilt University with a bachelor's degree in English in 2012 and began working with New Times shortly thereafter. He was born and raised in Miami.