Having ball through art

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Having ball through art

Gathering around the tube (or giant screen) to watch World Cup matches can be a surprisingly powerful experience, even to those who are not soccer fans. There is an immediate sense of community, a period of connection with our neighbors, joined together by the thrill of competition and stoked high by nationalism.

It's little wonder, then, that so many artists have explored the art of (and in) soccer, including Jeff Koons and Paik Nam-june. There is so much glamour, so many moments of drama within soccer games that there is plenty of material for artists to play around with. Within these elements, artists raise a wide range of issues surrounding violence, cultural stereotypes, globalism and capitalism reflected in the muddled world of sports.

"World Cup Through Art" is an exhibition focusing on artwork with soccer themes. It is on display at the Gallery Hyundai in Seoul. The show, organized with the Galerie Enrico Navarra in Paris, features 70 artists from 19 nations, with works ranging from found objects to video art. The symbols of soccer mingle and separate because each artist in the show approaches the theme from a different cultural angle.

Koons, sometimes called "the Madonna of American pop art," is better known either for his salaciously tasteless works or for being the husband of the Italian porn actress Cicciolina, but he contributed a quirky photography work called "Zungul" for the exhibition. The stale image of a hairy soccer player attired in gold crown as a "king," holding a globe in one hand and surrounded by soccer balls, was used for Nike ads back in the '90s. The work, while satisfying the corporate image of Nike, satirically reflected the American public's curious fantasies about male sports heroes.

"Ballon Carre" by the French artist Fabrice Hybert presents a square soccer ball -- a type of work often accompanied by people actually trying to play a little soccer with the odd cube -- as a parody of a disjointed world.

The Malaysian-Italian artist H.H. Lim's deflated soccer balls, titled "The Beginning of the End," make a philosophical reference to the Buddhist notions of transmigration.

More humorously, Jean Pierre Raynaud's "Drapeau Libre" -- a national flag of France stuck on the white tiles of the framed canvas -- offers comments on the frequent competition between nations in events such as the World Cup.

The Korean-born haute couture designer Ji-haye also displays her soccer-inspired evening gowns, decorated with crystal mesh and Swarowski diamonds on blue silk taffeta, titled "Follow Me."

Like many other project-based exhibitions, "World Cup Through Art" is sometimes only loosely linked to its stated theme. Instead, the works attempt to use the theme as a metaphor to examine other aspects of life.

The exhibition "World Cup Through Art" is on display until June 16 at the Gallery Hyundai in Jongno, downtown Seoul. For more information, call 02-734-6111.

Admission is 5,000 won ($4); 3,000 won for students.

by Park Soo-mee

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