When one English artist became an overnight YouTube sensation last year, it was a catalyst for a growing appreciation of football as an art subject, as well as pure entertainment. Gareth Bale’s rip-roaring display over two legs against Inter Milan was memorable in itself, but when Spurs fan Richard Swarbrick immortalised his hat trick and match-winning contributions over both games in the form of a hand drawn animation which immediately went viral, it became the stuff of legend. Such is the power of art; it has the ability to transform moments into images that stay with you forever.
After capturing Bale’s sensational showing, Swarbrick turned his hand to an El Clasico commission for Sky Sports, among other elegant clips that featured on television and swept social media. More than a year on from the Bale video, he – along with friend and business partner Christopher Platt – is turning his experience into a project to put football artists like himself on the map.
The idea for their upcoming art exhibition came about in a pub on a September evening. Dubbed ‘Fantasista – The Art of the Number 10’, after the Italian term for a playmaker, it draws inspiration from famed number tens, like the imperious Italian midﬁelder Roberto Baggio. “I’d initially had the idea to do an exhibition of my own work, which Christopher was keen to help me with,” Richard explains. “Then the conversation led to us making this an exhibition for football artists. I was aware of 5 or 6 other artists that I really wanted to get involved.”
One by one, a number of other superlative artists joined the fold, including Dan Leydon, Zoran Lucic, Steve Welsh and Stanley Chow; artists who have had their work featured by countless publications and football clubs. Yet there are still so many football fans yet to be exposed to their drawings, paintings, sculptures and videos. “From my point of view, apart from Richard’s work, I had no idea that this genre existed,” says Chris.
The concept is simple: a celebration of contemporary football art and an exhibition inspired by the rapid rise of the ‘football artist’ in the digital age. While still in its early stages, the project has generated huge interest. With a website and a new animation from Richard himself in the pipeline, there is plenty to keep an eye out for between now and the exhibition, which will take place in spring of 2013 in a central London venue to be announced in the near future. If all goes to plan, the exhibition will have an extended run, will travel to Manchester and perhaps even beyond. There has already been talk of taking the project to the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
Wherever the wind takes it, it will undoubtedly be an unmissable event.