Art Gallery, Sports Arena: Strange — But Compatible — Bedfellows


Partial installation of Franz Ackermann’s Coming Home (Meet me) At the waterfall (2009), which is being installed along several walls in the monumental staircase in the southwestern portion of the new Dallas Cowboys Stadium.

Image ©Dallas Cowboys

The Dallas Cowboys football team recently announced the commission of 14 monumental, site-specific installations and four large-scale artworks by contemporary artists. Slated for the new Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, TX, designed by HKS Sports and Entertainment Group, the artworks will be installed in prominent locations throughout the stadium. According to the press release, some will be as large as four stories high and more than 100 feet long. A wide range of talents — from Olafur Eliasson to Doug Aitken — were asked to play off both the architecture and the patterns of foot traffic. The goal is to create a dialogue between art and sports, which will be accomplished with accompanying art education programs and tours.

Dallas isn’t the only sports arena with this concept. The Miami-Dade Art in Public Places just closed a call to artists for six large-scale installations at Miami Ballpark, designed by Populous (formerly HOK Sport), where the Florida Marlins will soon play. Highlighting the building, the criteria emphasized the architectural concept of “water merging with land,” that aims to create a seamless relationship with the city, turning the skyline into an “inimitable design feature.” Artworks will be incorporated into the entry, a children’s recreation area, and a street level curtain wall, among other places in and around the stadium. Selected artists will be announced this coming December, and the installations will be complete in March 2012.

Since NYC has been called a cultural nexus of the U.S., my question is: Why hasn’t the city done something similar with its sports arenas? With the new Yankees and Mets stadiums, both offering wider circulation paths and claiming to be instituting numerous public outreach programs, it seems to me that this type of cultural program would be a no-brainer. By commissioning artworks in atypical cultural venues — such as sports arenas — new audiences would gain access to and an appreciation for art.

“Football is full of the unexpected and the spontaneous — it can make two strangers into friends,” said Jerry Jones, owner and general manager of the Dallas Cowboys. “Art has the power to do that too, to get people talking, and looking, and interacting. It’s not just about what you see on the field or on the wall, it’s about creating exciting experiences.” Even though NYC may not be the first, I hope the city takes Jones’s comments to heart.