Picasso unveiled at National Football Museum
2 November 2012
Bristol art historian Mike O'Mahony invited to talk to press at the National Football Museum's unveiling of a newly acquired work by Pablo Picasso
Bristol art historian Mike O'Mahony was invited to attend the unveiling of a work by Pablo Picasso, newly acquired by the National Football Museum in Manchester. The work, a ceramic figurine entitled footballeur, has been loaned to the museum by France-based collector Mark Briere-Edney. Describing the work, the director of the museum Kevin Moore said, “We are honoured to provide a new home for this fantastic Picasso ceramic. It’s a stunning work of art in every sense and should provide a really unique talking point for visitors to the museum."
As an acknowledged expert in the representation of sport in art and visual culture, Dr O'Mahony was invited by the museum to discuss the work with the local media. He stated, "Picasso's interest in football seems to have been directly motivated by his strong associations with Barcelona, where he had spent his formative years before moving to Paris. In May 1961, Barcelona appeared in the European Cup Final for the first time in their history. As Real Madrid had won this trophy in each of the previous five seasons, indeed every year since the inauguration of the competition, Barcelona’s presence in the final clearly appealed to Picasso's sympathies. Although Barcelona were to lose 3-2 to Benfica in the final, the game clearly inspired Picasso. Thus on 3 June, just four days after Barcelona’s defeat, he produced the first of his works representing footballers, a small colour lithograph. This was followed by other sculptural works, including the version currently on display in Manchester. These works perhaps recall Picasso’s earlier evocations of bathers and dancers as much as footballers, thus reflecting the ways in which Picasso enjoyed the aesthetics of physical movement in athletes as much as, if not more than, the competitive dimensions of the sport. Nonetheless, all these works offer a new vision of how football could be represented in art and visual culture, expressing the exuberance and joy of football for both player and spectator. As such, they stand as some of the most important representations of football in the twentieth century, produced by one of the century's most significant artists.”
Dr O'Mahony's comments were reported in the local Manchester press and online: