Gropius Bau


20 Oct 2005 - 08 Jan 2006

at Martin-Gropius-Bau
20 October 2005 – 8 January 2006

Organizer: Nationale DFB Kulturstiftung WM 2006 GmbH

Curator: Dorothea Strauss, artistic director Haus Konstruktiv, Zurich
based on an idea by Harald Szeemann (1933­-2005)

The Allianz Arena in Munich, the breathtaking new stadium designed by Herzog/De Meuron, is a sure sign that football is booming. For years now, even those who move in artistic and intellectual circles have been able to concede that football is an entertaining, fascinating and controversial game without creating a boring or primitive impression. These days, football has a great deal to do with power, making it a topic for very varied opinions and discussions.

Round Leather Worlds is an international group exhibition that brings together football and art, body and mind in works by 60 artists. In focusing on various aspects of the game – the ball, the players, the pitch, the rules, the referee, the fans, the media – they are at times critical or fanciful, dreamy or melancholic and at others naive or cynical, cheeky or enthusiastic.

The various aspects of the game are not merely documented and illustrated; visitors to the exhibition are positively encouraged to allow their imagination to run free and let football transport them to other realms. In many of the works the tremendous emotions that football unleashes are not communicated directly and immediately but are used to initiate a humorous game between winners and losers. Jacques Julien from France shows an outsized and completely demolished goal, while Ghost Games by Anri Sala from Bulgaria has crabs playing against each other.

Play Ground, a film by Maria Marshall from England, contains some dreamy and pensive moments: a youngster, lost in thought, is seen repeatedly kicking a ball against the wall of a chapel, although in fact it’s only the shadow of a ball, thus drawing the almost somnambulistic viewer into the scene.

In a different exhibition room Michael Staab from Germany confronts visitors with a mock information point: all the matches in the 2006 World Cup appear to have been decided already, or can the visitors actually determine the outcome of the games themselves? Where does what we call reality begin and where do our dreams and wishes end? Meanwhile, the spatial installation Hitzfeld by Stefan Banz from Switzerland features a changing room that has T-shirts with the titles of great masterpieces of art emblazoned on them: the ball of associations rolls through the art history of recent decades.

Round Leather Worlds is an exhibition which demonstrates in a comprehensive manner how unexpected, astute, careful and disarming the approaches adopted by artists can be in addressing such an all-pervasive subject as football. Their works weave a sensitive and thoughtful thread through reality, everyday routine and life as such. Parallel worlds emerge in which visitors can immerse themselves only to surface again at the end of the exhibition in a room full of emotions and devotional objects related to football. The great intellectual and reflective freedom that is inherent in art puts it ahead of football, while the immediate clarity of football gives it the edge over art; the two together provide a seductive mixture.

To that extent Round Leather Worlds is only partly a thematic exhibition, since the subject of football repeatedly serves as a means to access other areas of life. As a result, football appears at times like a fine fragment of everyday culture and at others as a source of great strength and emotions. The works in the 19 exhibition rooms are designed to seduce and surprise, to offend and irritate.

The paintings, video installations, drawings, sculptures and photographs by 74 artists from many different countries will be displayed throughout the 2,000 square meters of exhibition space on the upper floor of the Martin-Gropius-Bau. Over 20 of the artists were invited to produce new works especially for the exhibition.

A special, extended edition of the magazine ANSTOSS will be published in German and English in conjunction with the exhibition.

Sam & Ben, detail from the series
“The Ghostgame”, 1993
Realized 1993 at
Wankersdorf stadium, Bern
© Ralf Samens & BKH Gutmann

Tags: Herzog & De Meuron, Anri Sala, Harald Szeemann