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Commentary Detail

Sports, Games and the Arts
Commentary by: Nancy Kranzberg
Aired June 03, 2011

Recently on the front page of the Wall Street Journal was an article by Stephanie Simon about artists who design miniature golf courses. She writes, "For years, Seattle artist Jeremy Franklin-Ross made sculptures mostly for himself. Then he hit on a sure fire way to draw crowds: Turn his art into a game. This winter, Mr.Franklin-Ross,36 years old, set up a miniature golf course in a Denver warehouse - 13 playable holes he and several friends had crafted as works of art."

The next thing I knew, I was invited to the groundbreaking of the World Chess Hall of Fame and Museum right here in St.Louis. The brochure about the museum says that the museum is the only institution of its kind and will offer a variety of programming to explore the dynamic relationship between art and chess. It goes on to say that it’s an arts-based institution that will present exhibitions of artistic and historical significance from nationally and internationally recognized artists and collectors. Chess, like art, is an expression of inspiration and creativity, warranting recognition as a vital cultural and educational resource in our community.

The opening exhibition at the Chess Museum will feature such artists as our own internationally recognized Tom Friedman, whose chess set which he designed was influenced by Marcel Duchamp, who saw art as a game to be played.

Bradley Bailey, assistant professor of art history at St.Louis University, recently organized an exhibition at the St.Louis University Art Museum entitled, "Marcel Duchamp: Chess Master" He also co-authored a book entitled, "Marcel Duchamp and The Art of Chess" The book is the first major study in the English language devoted to exploring how Duchamp's activities as a chess player affected his art.

I started thinking of the many genre paintings at the St. Louis Art Museum that show people playing games such as chess and checkers and participating in sports such as ice skating, horse races, etc . From the Art Museum, I went to The Contemporary Art Museum of St Louis and heard Dominic Malon, Chief Curator of the museum, speak. He talked about his love of sports.

I approached Dominic about the relationship between sports and art. He said, "A key difference between art and sports is that an artist's challenge is to exceed or reinvent art's rules, an athlete’s challenge is to excel and create within their sport's given set of rules." He also states, “Art is much more about controlled and contained experiences that slow us down and prompt us to think longer and harder about things in the world. When art incorporates sports it slows it down to allow us to focus on the human elements but can't contain or convey the thrill of the game."

Another article on the internet gives the entire history of sports in art from Assyrian times where images of sports were carved in reliefs to artists such as Rubens who were inspired by Greek and Roman works such as ,The Charioteer by Lyseppos, and by the Greek urns and vessels. The history goes all the way to modern times and talks about skating scenes by Dutch artists such as Hendrick Avercamp and Rembrandt to Homer who did a series of male and female croquet players and on to George Bellows and his famous boxing scenes. The article goes all the way to contemporary times citing artists such as Richard Cronk and Peter Blake who do works of rollerbladers and skateboarders.

Whether watching our St Louis Cardinals or playing a game of chess at the St Louis Chess and Scholastic center, I'm reminded by something else Domonic Malon said, "People appreciate art because it provides an important alternative form of communication about who we are, where we come from, where we ought to be going, and what the world looks like or should or could look like. People watch sports because it too is a visual spectacle that is simultaneously part of and separate from our lived reality”.

Going to museums, sporting events and watching games - all keep me feeling alive and challenged.

(The opinions expressed are not necessarily those of St. Louis Public Radio.)

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Nancy Kranzberg

Nancy Kranzberg

Arts Aficionado Nancy Kranzberg has been involved in the arts community for some thirty years. She serves on numerous arts affiliated boards, including The St. Louis Art Museum, Laumeier Sculpture Park where she is the Co-Chair, The Sheldon Arts Foundation and the Sheldon Art Gallery Board, Jazz at the Bistro, The Missouri Mansion Preservation Inc., The Mid American Arts Alliance, and the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis. Nancy was named Women of Achievement and was awarded the Distinguished Alumnae Award at Washington University Nancy is a docent at the St. Louis Art Museum and is an honorary docent at Laumeier Sculpture Park. At age 60 she became a Jazz singer. She performs with the Second Half which features Chancellor Tom George on the piano.

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