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OOF's Eddy Frankel said liking sport can make you feel like an 'uncultured brute' and liking art can make you feel like a 'museum-shagging wuss'.

Kieran Leach, The First Ball (2020). Installation view, 'BALLS' at OOF Gallery. Photo : Tom Carter. Courtesy OOF Gallery.

OOF Gallery opened on the grounds of Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in North London this month. The home ground of a Premier League football team is an unusual location for an art gallery, but then OOF is an unusual institution.

The gallery is a new manifestation of OOF magazine, which was founded in 2018 by Eddy Frankel, Time Out London's Culture Editor and Chief Art Critic, along with curators Justin and Jennie Hammond. OOF has staged exhibitions across London over the years, but this is its first permanent gallery space.

Sarah Lucas, World Cup Again (2002). Private collection. Installation view, BALLS at OOF Gallery. Photo by Tom Carter. Courtesy OOF Gallery.

Like the magazine, the gallery is devoted to art about football, a combination whose audience would seem to occupy a narrow sliver of a Venn diagram.

'There's a lot of sneering in both directions,' Frankel said. 'If you're into art you often feel like you have to hide your football fandom for fear of looking like an uncultured brute, and if you're into football, then liking art can make you seem like a museum-shagging wuss. But once you start talking to people about it, you find out that the world is a lot more open and accepting than you think.'

Paul Deller, A Playground of Bubbleheads (2020-21). Installation view, 'BALLS' at OOF Gallery. Photo by Tom Carter. Courtesy OOF Gallery.

The ubiquity of football, or soccer, has made it a useful conceptual medium for artists.

'Everything that happens in life happens in football, so it's the perfect way to express ideas about community, belief, passion, anger, hatred, bigotry, etcetera,' Frankel said.

The gallery's inaugural exhibition, BALLS, features works by 17 artists who use football to explore everything from masculinity and hooliganism to absurdity and form.

Nicola Costantino, Male Nipples Soccer Ball, Chocolate and Peach (2000). Installation view, 'BALLS' at OOF Gallery. Photo by Tom Carter. Courtesy OOF Gallery.

The show was inspired by a series of instagram posts Justin Hammond titled 'useless footballs', which included Sarah Lucas's concrete World Cup Again. That work is included in the show along with pieces by other established artists such as Marcus Harvey and Hank Willis Thomas.

Stand out works include Paul Deller's inside-out ball wall A Playground of Bubbleheads (2020-21) and Kieran Leach's The First Ball (2020), which featured on the cover of OOF's seventh issue in June.

Frankel singles out JJ Guest's Balls, as really special: 'a big pair of ceramic bollocks confronting ideas of sexuality right in the middle of a major stadium'.

JJ Guest, Balls (2021). Installation view, 'BALLS' at OOF Gallery. Photo by Tom Carter. Courtesy OOF Gallery.

OOF Gallery is located in Warmington House, a heritage building that the stadium agreed to let them use after they restored it without a clear purpose in mind.

The gallery is developing a community outreach programme and an artist residency, and plans to exhibit four shows per year.

BALLS will run a little longer than future shows, however, continuing through November.

'The place we are in at the stadium gets 20,000 people on a match day, which is crazy, so we need time to understand what it's like in there when we have loads of visitors,' Frankel said. —[O]

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