At the Museum of Contemporary Photography’s ‘Spectator Sports,’ You Won’t Mind Missing the Big Game

A new exhibition finds the rare common ground between Chicago’s sports fans and its art aficionados.

Photography: Courtesy the Museum of Contemporary Photography

A map of the gameplay in the 2006 FIFA championships, now on display at the Museum of Contemporary Photography. 

Susken Rosenthal was just one of the millions of fans who watched all 64 games of the 2006 FIFA Soccer World Cup championships on TV. But Rosenthal, an artist in Germany, spent her TV viewing mapping the ball’s position on the field—each kick, pass, and score—during the games, with her pencil on a sheet of paper. The resulting 70 drawings (that’s 64 games plus 6 overtime periods) are tangled webs of action. They are also striking as abstract drawings.

Rosenthal’s sketches take over an entire wall of Spectator Sports, the new exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Photography. The exhibition takes a look at sports fans and fanatics through the lens of contemporary art. It is a successful marriage of art and sports in a city where both scenes thrive but their audiences rarely overlap. 

The above drawing is from the third-place match between Germany and Portugal on July 8, 2006 played in Stuttgart. (Germany 3 – 1 Portugal). It’s just the ball’s movement during the first half (the second half of the same game is below). An excellent video of the artist producing a drawing is available on her website. “Most of the drawings were made in real time, as the matches were being played on live television,” says Allison Grant, curator of Spectator Sports.

Want to see more? Rosenthal is just one of a dozen artists featured in Spectator Sportson view through July 3 at the Museum of Contemporary Photography, 600 S Michigan. For info, mocp.org.

Jason Foumberg is Chicago magazine’s contributing art critic.

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