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Amazing football art exhibition features ‘The Longest Ball in the World’

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With multiple restaurants, Europe’s longest bar and even a brewery on-site, many visiting fans have already sampled the top-notch hospitality on offer at Tottenham Hotspur‘s new stadium since the Premier League club opened it two years ago.

However, the North London side have stepped things up this summer by hosting their first in-house art exhibition. Spurs have allowed OOF, the art and football magazine, to host a soccer-themed exhibition within Warmington House, a Grade II-listed building beside the stadium which is connected to the club megastore and owned by Spurs.

The space has been transformed into a contemporary art gallery that is accommodating its inaugural exhibition, “BALLS,” a showcase of sculptures both inspired and consisting of footballs in various forms. “BALLS” features works by a number of established artists such as Sarah Lucas, Marcus Harvey and Abigail Lane, as well as pieces commissioned from local rising talents like Rosie Gibbens, Lindsey Mendick and Jazz Grant.

According to OOF co-curator Justin Hammond, the brief was to “sabotage” the conventional function of a football — a concept that is no doubt familiar to Spurs fans — and transform it into something spectacular, unrecognisable and completely unrelated to the game.

“These sculptures span the past twenty years and are monuments to political histories, childhood dreams and overwhelming desires,” said Hammond, a lifelong Tottenham supporter.

With many pieces described by Hammond as “visual punchlines”, BALLS brings the worlds of football and modern art together to create a light-hearted blend of introspection, nostalgia and fun.

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‘The Longest Ball in the World’ (Laurent Perbos, 2017)

Actually made from stitched leather, the longest ball in the world is exactly that. It would certainly be a challenge to send a free kick into the top corner using it, though Perbos’ elongated ball is probably still more aerodynamically stable than the Adidas Jabulani. Former Tottenham captain Ledley King couldn’t resist a cheeky little kick of it when he viewed the exhibition.

‘Kipple #2: Mitre Delta, Nike Cortez’ (Dominic Watson, 2021)

Two items of sporting gear that will induce pangs of nostalgia for many a child of the 1990s are recreated here, although we’re don’t recall here ever being a fashion for microwaving them.

‘Self-Portrait as a Pheasant’ (Abigail Lane, 2012)

Using real feathers, Lane has reimagined herself as a deflated, dilapidated leather football with beige plumage.

‘You Make it So Hard to Love You (Tainted Love)’ (Lindsey Mendick, 2021)

A turquoise ceramic football stitched together and decorated with jagged pieces of flora and fauna. Like a long-lost playground ball retrieved from a ditch after many years.

‘Endless Column III’ (Hank Willis Thomas, 2017)

Endless Column consists of a stack of fibreglass footballs piled high in a vertical column that, despite the name, does actually come to a fairly abrupt end after the 10th metallic sphere.

‘Obverse and Reverse XXXI’ (Dario Escobar, 2017)

Footballs arranged in clumps to give the impression of two moody clouds suspended in mid-air, with only the thinnest of tethers preventing them all from floating away entirely.

‘The First Ball’ (Kieran Leach, 2020)

Ouch. Now that’s a career-ending injury if we ever saw one.

‘Pre-Match Ritual’ and ‘Team Building Exercise’ (Rosie Gibbens, 2021)

An abstract work that utilises footballs, baby bottles and fabric to create a colourful “energy drink dispenser” for players to sup from midgame while kneeling on the surrounding pads.

‘Canary in a Coal Mine’ (Jazz Grant, 2021)

A sprawling wall piece that uses the hexagons from an unpicked football to create a bustling collage of 1970s English footballing scenes, including the widespread hooliganism of the period.

‘A Playground of Bubbleheads’ (Paul Deller, 2020-21)

Looking like an entire school year’s worth of ruined leather footballs cleared from the gym roof, Deller has turned 21 balls inside out and individually daubed them to create an intriguingly ragged wall mural.

‘Celery FC’ (Lana Locke, 2012)

This piece features a bronze cast of a celery stalk wilted over the top of an old blue football, in reference to a rather rude chant sung by Chelsea supporters.

‘World Cup Again’ (Sarah Lucas, 2002)

A concrete football. Hopefully King didn’t try to give this one a kick.

‘Victoria’ (Marcus Harvey, 2008)

Harvey’s bronze cast depicts an old-fashioned 1960s football slowly deflating in the middle of the room. It is said to be an allegory for the decline of the British Empire, though some viewers have also mistaken it for a large chair.

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