Hans Ulrich Obrist, Julia Peyton-Jones, Bettina Korek and around 50 children walk onto a basketball court. No, this isn’t the start of a niche art world joke, but the launch of a new playing court in east London’s Weavers Adventure Playground, designed by the artist Alvaro Barrington for the youth division of the London Lions basketball club.
“This is a landscape painting,” Barrington said of his brightly hued design. “It symbolises a mixture of luscious pastures and dry arid ground; I’ve incorporated a horizon line with a sun and moon so that all becomes apparent.” He then motioned to the multicoloured tyres stacked around the court’s circumference, where those less athletically inclined can sit down to spectate.
Barrington added that he grew up during the era of Michael Jordan, and that basketball—a motif frequently referenced in his painting and sculptural practice—has been central to his life since his childhood in Harlem, New York. At the opening he even managed to score a goal, albeit against a 13-year-old boy.
The basketball court is the latest community-minded initiative by London’s Serpentine Galleries—for which Obrist serves as creative director and Korek as chief executive, with Peyton-Jones a previous director.
"This court is quite a clear and logical extension of Barrington's existing painting practice, which is very experimental and free," Obrist said. "He always plays with scale—the micro and the macro—painting on things as small as postcards and as large as architectural sites. He also tends to explore public space as a theme in his work and he always connects his painting into social worlds."
Asked of his basketball credentials, Obrist said he prefers morning runs. Korek, however, revealed herself to have been a star volleyball player at her Los Angeles high school before swapping jump serves for John Singer Sargent.