From Friday’s Weekend Look section of The Oklahoman.
“The Art of Golf” swings into Oklahoma City Museum of Art
The exhibit features more than 90 paintings, photographs, cartoons and antiquities related to the sport, with famous artists from Norman Rockwell and Andy Warhol to Rembrandt and James McNeill Whistler taking on the game.
It’s not every day that art lovers can spot a Norman Rockwell portrait hanging alongside an Andy Warhol canvas.
Of course, an entire exhibit dedicated to paintings, photographs, cartoons and antiquities related to the preferred sport of businessmen, retirees and Scotsmen isn’t exactly par for the course, either.
But that’s exactly what the special exhibition “The Art of Golf” is offering at the Oklahoma City Museum of Art.
With the Summer Olympics opening next week in London and turning even non-athletes into sports fans, museums staffers hope the new show attracts both golf lovers who might not otherwise visit the third-floor galleries and art patrons who will be pleasantly surprised at the diversity, scope and span of the touring exhibit.
“The opening of ‘The Art of Golf’ days before the Summer Olympics, though fortuitous, is exceptional timing. Both highlight the very best of the sports they represent, and while golf isn’t quite as ancient as the Games, it still boasts a significant history of over 400 years, and that is depicted beautifully in the more than 90 works of art in the exhibit,” said Nicole Emmons, the museum’s publications coordinator.
“This isn’t just a show for your avid golfer; it has a broad appeal that reaches history buffs, sports fans, and just about anyone interested in seeing works by some of the biggest names in art.”
Organized by the High Museum of Art and the National Galleries of Scotland, “The Art of Golf” is billed as the first exhibit devoted to the game by a major American art museum. Oklahoma City is only its second stop, following its debut at the High Museum in Atlanta, the hometown of golf great Robert Tyre “Bobby” Jones Jr.
“The Art of Golf” examines the game’s origins, its beginnings in Scotland and its growth in America during the 20th century. Along with an introductory video that features legendary players Sir Michael Bonallack and Jack Nicklaus, The exhibit includes works that span the sport’s long history, from 17th century Dutch landscape paintings depicting “kolf,” a cousin of the game, to a series of brilliantly colored aerial photographs by Patricia and Angus Macdonald that feature today’s well-known Scottish golf courses and explore the effects of human activity on the terrain.
“Just from the purely visual level, this is a beautiful 17th-century Dutch painting; it’s very
typical of what you would expect from a painting of this time. It really captures the essence of a good genre scene, a scene of everyday life, which the Dutch were so known for,” said Alison Amick, the Oklahoma City museum’s curator of collections, indicating Hendrick Avercamp’s 1630 oil painting “Winter Landscape.”
“It’s a really rare opportunity to get to see these in the region … so just looking at the actual art on view, it’s all excellent. The quality of this exhibition is very high.”
In addition, the exhibit boasts the first known painting and photograph capturing the sport, as well as “golfiana”: antique balls, clubs and clothing that illustrate the different equipment used in game’s early days.
“It’s really interesting to think about how long it has been depicted in art,” Amick said. “What’s interesting, too, is that there are a number of household names in the show, so you do have Andy Warhol and Norman Rockwell, for example, artists who are … important figures in the art world. It’s interesting to see them somehow or another addressing golf either because they’re golfers themselves or looking at the idea of celebrity.”
While Rembrandt, Childe Hassam and James McNeill Whistler are among the renowned artists who created works in the show, the exhibit also depicts famed golfers from Arnold Palmer and British King Edward VIII to Tiger Woods and Snoopy. An entire section is devoted to Jones, who is credited with building the game’s international popularity in the 1920s and ‘30s; along with heroic portraits, the section includes a series of Harold Edgerton’s stroboscopic photos showing Jones’ perfect swing in motion.
“The Art of Golf” even includes the uncommon chance to really see what is considered the greatest golf painting ever done: Charles Lees’ “The Golfers,” which portrays a pivotal shot in an 1847 match played on the Old Course at St. Andrews in Scotland.
“Reproductions of it hang at golf courses throughout the world, and it’s considered really the most famous painting related to golf,” Amick said. “And the painting has never traveled to the United States before this exhibition.”
“The Art of Golf”
When: Through Oct. 7.
Where: Oklahoma City Museum of Art, 415 Couch Drive.
Information: 236-3100 or www.okcmoa.com.