Paint it like Beckham

Paint it like Beckham

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The late and much loved Sir Bobby Charlton is recorded in three pictures in Britain’s National Portrait Gallery. All are conventional oil paintings. David Beckham, forty years his junior, is already featured in six pieces produced by a mixture of high fashion photographers and conceptual artist Sam Taylor Wood. That Beckham can outrank Charlton and be rendered in these mediums is no surprise; it is precisely what what he has been aiming for.


The author is a British sports writer, broadcaster, sociologist, journalist and author. Among his books are The Games: A Global History of the Olympics, The Game of Our Lives: The Meaning and Making of English Football, Futebol Nation: A Footballing History of Brazil, and The Ball Is Round: A Global History of Football.

Annie Leibovitz, David Beckham, Toledo 2004

David Beckham took fabulous corners, scored amazing goals from free kick. He worked hard for every team he played for, and won plenty of trophies, but no one would consider him the best footballer of his time. Yet he was the most famous and the most globally recognised player of his generation, and he achieved this not because he controlled the ball, but because he controlled and managed his own image so magnificently. 

In the early years of his career, a combination of high fashion, good looks and careful grooming made him a natural for magazine covers from GQ to Gay Times, as well as dozens of brand endorsements. He offered advertisers a safe sexual energy that appealed to both women and men, shorn of the ugly misogyny and football’s usual unprepossessing versions of masculinity. Lucrative as this field was, it was a stepping stone to another level of image-making.

Tracey Emin, Blinding, 2008

In 2004, he moved into new territory, supporting an art auction to raise money for Britain’s National Deaf Children’s Society; art that was all on the theme of David Beckham. Contributors included sculptor Anthony
Gormley, Peter Blake, the grandfather of British pop art, and Tracey Emin. Emin’s work was a Polaroid of her self, lying on a bed in a pair of floral knickers composing a letter. The letter, available separately was it seemed, a piece of genuine fan mail. It opened,

This may sound strange, but sometimes I believe people forget who you are and what you have achieved for Britain and your sport. In fact, sometimes it actually makes me quite angry…

In 2016, Beckham organised a second art auction, this time under the auspices of The David Beckham Unicef Fund, but again on the theme of himself. The roster of contributors this time round included Damien Hirst, Sam Taylor-Johnson, Tracey Emin again and photographers Cedric Buchet, Guy Luchford and Tessa Traeger.

Read the full article in the Sport in Art print magazine. 
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Published 10.01.2024

Článek je součástí tištěného magazínu Sport in Art. Ten vychází čtyřikrát do roka v prvotřídní obrazové a textové kvalitě na více než sto čtyřiceti stranách. Nabízí inspiraci, nečekané souvislosti, průniky sportu a umění. Každé číslo je zaměřené na jedno hlavní téma, vybraný sport. Zbytek obsahu věnujeme příběhům osobností, které stojí rozkročené mezi sportem a uměním. Můžete si pořídit jeho aktuální číslo nebo jako předplatné na

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