Who knew that the Swiss tennis superstar Roger Federer had secretly modelled for a major work by Ugo Rondinone? The 20-time Grand Slam winner worked with the sculptor while he was out of action due to injury, transforming into a flying figure for Rondinone’s burn shine fly exhibition held in the Scuola Grande San Giovanni Evangelista church at last year’s Venice Biennale.
Federer stripped to his underwear for the secret art modelling sessions which turned out to be just as gruelling as playing on Centre Court. A statement on the Credit Suisse website says that “making the piece was physically challenging, requiring Federer to be suspended in a harness and have his face and ears totally covered in casting material”.
Federer was game nonetheless, saying: “This is something exciting in itself as it takes you out of your normal world and it sort of throws you into another world… But in art, I’m a little bit new and I’ve still got so much to learn.” Rondinone says eloquently: “When I see him moving on the court, I see a man who can fly by catching the ball so I thought it was a good fit to [make him into] a flying person.” A new documentary, Portrait of a Champion, follows Federer from late 2020, through his retirement from professional tennis to his transformation into the secret Cloud Six model in Rondinone’s installation. The film, produced by NBCUniversal in partnership with Credit Suisse, can be seen on CNBC.com