This fall, the Chase Center in San Francisco will become the new home of the NBA’s Golden State Warriors, replacing the beloved Oracle Arena in Oakland. The new building is packed with modern amenities, including luxury lodges and suites, and upscale concessions. It will also present the most recent equipment in the world of sport: the fine arts.
Sculptures, paintings and video art are no longer reserved for galleries and museums, or even in the public square. Works of art have become de rigueur at new sports venues, appearing in plazas outside stadiums, decorating indoor halls and even on jumbotrons. In Arlington, Texas, Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones filled the AT&T stadium with more than five dozen world-class works of art, including that of Ellesworth Kelly. White form and Anish Kapoor Sky mirror, the latter of which cost $ 10 million ($ 13 million if you include the surrounding black granite fountain). Mercedes-Benz Atlanta Stadium, home of the NFL Falcons and MLS’s Atlanta United FC, opened in 2017 and features 180 works by 50 different artists, culminating in Gábor Miklós. Szőke Rise up, the largest avian sculpture in the world. Although the price of the statue has never been made public, it weighs over 73,000 pounds and took Szőke two years to design and build it. Other proudly collectable stadiums include Hard Rock Field in Miami, US Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, and Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia.
When it opens with a Metallica concert in September, the Chase Center will feature around 40 works of art. Highlights of the burgeoning collection include a 324-inch-long metal mobile by Alexander Calder and Play sculpture by Isamu Noguchi, both on indefinite loan to the Arena from the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art for an undisclosed amount.
So what exactly is the reason for the tendency to be high minded?
As you might expect, the relatively sudden proliferation of fine art in stadiums and arenas worth billions of dollars is not entirely due to goodwill. According to artnet News, the artwork isn’t just there to enrich the fan experience or enhance the aesthetic of the stadium. It’s about dollars. The work aims to give the buildings a high-end character to make them more attractive for rental when the home team is not in town or in low season. The owners and operators of these state-of-the-art venues hope they can attract (very) well-heeled customers who are looking for a giant venue to host their next birthday party, wedding, or corporate event.
Of course, the fact that arenas pay museums for the right to “borrow” their art raises thorny questions about whether or not these institutions should be able to rent their collections for profit. Neither the American Alliance of Museums nor the Association of Art Museum Directors has spoken out and actively discouraged this practice so far. In fact, some in the art world see the trend as a good way to expose the public to art.
“The more people who can see and appreciate art, the better,” Douglas S. Jones, director of the Florida Museum of Natural History in Gainesville and former chairman of the board of directors, told artnet. ‘American Alliance of Museums. “The stereotypical sports fan may never darken the door of an art gallery or museum, so if he sees art that way, it’s great.”
As arenas and stadiums continue to develop their thriving collections, it looks like art is here to stay as part of the modern stadium experience. And given the amount of public funding spent on these sites, that might not be a bad thing.