Football x Art? Goals.
Football and Fine Art might seem like unusual bedfellows, but the team behind OOF are here proving that it’s actually a winning combination.
There is perhaps nowhere in the public sphere where people are so emotionally liberated than the football ground. It gets a bad rep for outbreaks of violence, but ultimately it’s an arena for shared joy and shared anguish. For many men, it’s the only space they feel comfortable to cry in. That an activity and space that is so key to many people’s experience of being alive has been pretty much entirely ignored by artists and curators alike, is odd. Rooted in classism? Probably. Odd? Definitely.
There are examples through history where football plays a small role in a composition – think background characters in Flemish landscapes – but until now The Beautiful Game hasn’t been given centre stage. OOF is all about creating that stage, exploring what football means to society, and how art can get involved.
Fresh from a collaboration with UMBRO, and the opening of their first gallery at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, I spoke to one of OOF’s co-founders Eddy Frankel about how far they’ve come since the first OOF magazine launched.
Introduce yourself – who are you and what is OOF?
I’m Eddy, I’m Time Out’s art and culture editor and I run OOF alongside the curators Justin and Jennie Hammond. OOF started life as a biannual magazine about the relationship between art and football about 4 years ago. 7 issues and three exhibitions later, we’ve somehow managed to open our own permanent gallery. OOF Gallery is a contemporary art space right in the heart of the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in north London, totally dedicated to art and football.
How did OOF come about and what’s its journey been to becoming a fully-fledged gallery?
Justin and I have a shared love of art and football, and both came to realise that countless artists were using it to express their ideas. It seemed so natural to start a magazine about it that we were shocked that no one else had done it. We’re still shocked. Maybe we’re the idiots?
As I said, we did the mag and a few exhibitions – shows to coincide with the men and women’s World Cups and one dedicated to the painter Caroline Coon, all at J Hammond Projects in Archway – and decided we’d try to find a permanent space. We spoke to Spurs to see if they had any unused buildings, and they did – a huge, beautiful, listed Georgian townhouse that they couldn’t knock down, so now forms part of the stadium. That’s our home.
Where did your love of football come from?
An impossible question to answer. Football is like air or the Beegees, it’s everywhere, it’s part of our DNA.
Why do you think art and football belong together?
Football is the world’s most popular sport, it’s huge, it’s ubiquitous. As a result, artists can use it to express ideas about wider society. Everything that happens in the real world happens in football. So football art ends up being about violence, bigotry, passion, community, love: everything.
What should galleries be working harder on to improve, in general?
Pffff, I dunno, that’s their problem. We have our mission, though, and that’s to create an art space that’s welcoming to absolutely everyone. We don’t want to do shows just for people with art degrees, we don’t want to do shows just for collectors. We care about those audiences, of course, but way more interesting for us is getting everyday football fans, people who might never have been to a contemporary art gallery, through the door. So far it’s working, we have huge visitor figures already, almost all people who would never have engaged with this kind of art if we weren’t in their community and stadium. It’s amazing, we’re super proud. And very tired.
What’s next for OOF?
The current exhibition, BALLS, runs until November, and then we’ll do more shows, more mags, more events, more workshops. Add to that a community outreach program and an artist residency and we are set to be very, very busy.