How Do You Bridge the NBA and the Art World?
An unexpected pairing that's worked out well for all involved
Nearly every sport has its intellectuals, its art buffs and its gourmands. There’s something about basketball, however, that seems to attract athletes with a penchant for notable art and fine dining. That basketball has its intellectual side should come as no surprise — think of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s post-NBA life as a writer and political commentator, or Bill Bradley’s 3 terms in the Senate. And that spirit of curiosity and a penchant for quality has manifested itself in a host of ways, including CJ McCollum’s foray into winemaking.
It’s also led a number of NBA players to make forays into the art world. A recent article by Julie Belcove at Robb Report charted the rise of Gardy St. Fleur, who has helped a number of players — including Deron Williams and Kyrie Irving — build their art collections. He favors a holistic, immersive approach, which he described in detail.
“Money doesn’t make you a great art collector,” St. Fleur said. “It’s knowledge. It’s education, traveling, exhibitions, studio visits. It’s important to me for someone to understand what they’re buying.”
St. Fleur isn’t alone in bringing together the NBA with the art world. Amar’e Stoudemire was the subject of a 2016 piece by Molly Gottschalk at Artsy describing his own forays into collecting art — including work by Warhol and Basquiat — that mentioned that he’s been advising his peers looking to do the same. “I’m actually becoming the curator and dealer for my guys in the NBA,” he told Artsy.
Professional basketball and contemporary art might make an unlikely pair, but the people who have helped bring them together in recent years seem eminently satisfied with the results so far.
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