In June, The Armory and the United States Tennis Association (USTA) announced their first-ever partnership, bringing the Armory Off-Site to the US Open. From now on, the images of the works installed on the courts of the tennis championship have been put online.
The Armory Off-Site program launched last year, with public sculptures installed around New York during the fair in September. This year they are expanding the effort, selecting five 2022 exhibitors to show sculptures by gallery artists at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center from August 23 to September 11, covering both the US Open, the one of the city’s major annual sporting events, and the art-centric Armory Show.
The artists whose works are on display – Gerald Chukwuma (presented by Kristin Hjellegjerde Gallery), Jose Dávila (Sean Kelly), Luzene Hill (K Art), Myles Nurse (Half Gallery) and Carolyn Salas (Ms.) – each come from backgrounds underrepresented.
“The Armory Show and the USTA share a vision of inspiration, creativity and fairness,” art fair director Nicole Berry told Artnet News. “Building on the USTA’s previous ‘Be Open’ campaign, it was important for us to select works by artists from underrepresented communities. These sculptures bring contemporary art to a wider audience and provide an unprecedented platform for artists on the world stage.
The USTA’s “Be Open” campaign kicked off in 2020, when it “featured the work of 18 artists who identify as Black, Indigenous or of color, in the empty front seats of Arthur Ashe Stadium,” said Write the New York Times.
As a non-profit organization, the USTA invests 100% of its profits in increasing tennis participation across America. This partnership offers a chance to make September the premier month of New York’s cultural calendar, while potentially attracting new audiences for both organizations. Tennis fans can see the works near the stadiums and visit the galleries, while art lovers can watch the matches. Each piece is also for sale.
Chukwuma’s work particularly exposes new audiences to harsh realities. His sculpture, OGADILIGMMAis part of a series centering on the historical event of the 19th century Igbo landing, when “about 75 newly enslaved West Africans took control of a coastal vessel, beached the vessel and then walked into the waters of Dunbar Creek in Georgia, committing mass suicide,” according to the New York Times. Chukwuma’s series will eventually include a sculpt for each rebel. “I think it’s a beautiful thing,” he told the Time. “There is liberation there.”
Three of the five artists produced site-specific works for the occasion, including Nurse’s tangled steel sculpture interpreting the unique athletic rhythms of tennis, Hill’s arrangement of 40 letters from the Cherokee language “in an undulating formation to suggest the lyrical rise and fall (and rise) of native language,” according to the Armory website.
The Armory Show will announce other offsite public projects and partners in the coming weeks. In the meantime, take a look at their first appearances at the US Open below.
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