Professional Athletes Are Making a Splash in the Art Market

It's an unexpected convergence

Carmelo Anthony with a painting of himself
Carmelo Anthony and Kehinde Wiley's portrait of Carmelo Anthony.
Jason Merritt/Getty Images for GREY GOOSE

Turns out fine wines and soccer teams aren’t the only things professional athletes are embracing as both luxury statements and financial investments. The art world has seen an influx of investment from people best known for their feats on the field, court and pitch in recent years — something that could make for a dramatic shift in the market for contemporary art. While athletes have long been the subject of works of art, what’s happening now is different — and represents a sea change in two distinct worlds that haven’t had a lot of crossover to date.

That’s one of the big takeaways from a recent New York Times piece by Robin Pogrebin and Emmanuel Morgan. Pogrebin and Morgan explore the investments that the likes of Carmelo Anthony and Kevin Love have made in the art world.

The two journalists note some precedent for this — specifically citing Grant Hill, whose collection of art has been featured in traveling exhibitions over the years. At the time, Hill was the exception to the rule; now, his approach feels more like a template that others have followed.

And it sounds like some of the athletes who have gotten into art have gone above and beyond simply following trends. The article points to the work of Keith Rivers, who played for the likes of the Bengals and Giants during his career in the NFL, and more recently curated a show at New York City’s FLAG Art Foundation. “He read voraciously, went to Munich to the Haus der Kunst museum, to London for the Frieze art fair, to Africa to meet artists,” the space’s founder, Glenn Fuhrman, told the Times.

The worlds of art and sport are converging in ways that might have been unthinkable decades earlier. That can encompass everything from Kehinde Wiley painting a portrait of Carmelo Anthony to the Brooklyn Nets releasing a jersey inspired by Jean-Michel Basquiat. And it suggests both worlds have been changed by the encounter, to the benefit of both.

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