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Minneapolis Institute of Arts is the first major art museum to trace the rise of a global sports culture
Kota Ezawa, Brawl, 2008. Digital animation transferred to 16mm film, with soundtrack, 4 minutes, 11 seconds. Courtesy the artist and Murray Guy Gallery, New York.

MINNEAPOLIS, MN.- The Minneapolis Institute of Arts is the first major art museum to trace the rise of a global sports culture dating from the late 19th century to the present. “The Sports Show” demonstrates how photography itself spurred this expansion. Featuring photographs, moving images, and television clips of athletes and athletic competitions, the exhibition delineate the evolution of sports events from community entertainment into spectacles of mass participation. Opening February 19, 2012, “The Sports Show” comprise photographs by Diane Arbus, Richard Avedon, Andreas Gursky, Alexander Rodchenko, Wolfgang Tillmans, and Andy Warhol, among other innovative photographers and filmmakers.

“In the nineteenth century, sports events were local events,” said Curator of Photography and New Media David Little. “As technology advanced and the ability to disseminate information on an international level increased, people were able to see images of important games and victorious athletes from around the world. Suddenly, millions of people were witness to athletic action, and sports became and have remained spectacles, pop culture phenomena, and political dramas. At the same time, sports images became triggers for memories of significant personal and historic events.”

The exhibition is divided into six sections, as follows.

• Sporting Leisure will include Alfred Stieglitz’s photograph of 1904, Going to the Start, depicting a horse race, and a rare vintage photographic study for Thomas Eakins’s painting, The Swimming Hole (1884–85).

• In the Game: The Machine-eye will highlight Gjon Mili’s photos of athletes demonstrating their technique, including New York Giants footballer Eddie Miller tossing his famed spiral pass, and baseball’s Ted Williams taking his legendary swing.

• Everybody’s a Player will encompass a series of photographs depicting U.S. presidents throwing out first pitches at baseball games, including William Howard Taft, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Richard Nixon, and Barak Obama.

• Choosing Sides: Rivals, Race, and Politics will spotlight the infamous photograph of American track medalists Tommie Smith and John Carlos giving the Black Power salute at the 1968 Mexico City Olympics.

• Pop Icons: Up Close and Very Personal will present portraits of some of the nation’s greatest athletes, including Nat Fein’s The Babe Bows Out, Robert Mapplethorpe’s photo of a flexing Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Richard Avedon’s portrait of a young Lew Alcindor palming a basketball.

• Sports Spectacular will feature Roger Welch’s OJ Simpson Project, which has not been seen its 1977 premier, and Kota Ezawa’s digital animation called The Brawl, which uses sound from a real-life fight at a Pistons-Pacers game.

A centerpiece of the exhibition is Paul Pfeiffer’s The Saints, an immersive sound-and-video installation based on the 1966 World Cup final between Germany and Great Britain. The work, never before seen in the U. S., portrays nationalism and crowd dynamics in sports.

“The Minneapolis Institute of Arts looks forward to welcoming sports and art lovers alike to ‘The Sports Show,’” said Kaywin Feldman, Director and President of the MIA. “Sports fans in particular will enjoy seeing iconic photographs of well-known athletes and replays of famous sports maneuvers. Art lovers will gain a new appreciation for the artfulness of these photographic compositions and the range of human emotions captured on film.”

The exhibition also includes film installations by Tim Davis and Douglas Gordon. Looking closely at the artistic composition and the history of these images “The Sports Show” examines how photographs and media works have transcended the specifics of sporting events to communicate enduring social, political, and cultural messages.

Premiering during the exhibition’s run as part of the MIA’s biannual photography series New Pictures is a special commission by Magnum photographer Martin Parr. His photographs depict the winter hockey culture in Minnesota.

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