Apollo Magazine

The fine art of golf

The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art is launching a mini-golf course inspired by its collection

Art holes: 18th-century golfers. Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Introducing Rakewell, Apollo’s wandering eye on the art world. Look out for regular posts taking a rakish perspective on art and museum stories

Pull on your plus fours: the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City is set to unveil a golfing attraction this summer. Art Course will consist of a nine-hole miniature golf course offering ‘unique interpretations of the masterpieces and works held in the museum’s collection’ – among them Kandinsky’s Rose with Grey.

Novel though Art Course may seem, this is far from the first time that art and golf have collided. The sport made recurring appearances in Scottish paintings of the 18th and 19th centuries, and has of late become something of a touchstone for contemporary artists. Notable contributions to the genre include ‘artist-designed mini golf’ at the Walker Art Centre, Minneapolis, and Doug Fishbone’s Leisure Land Golf at the Venice Biennale in 2015, for which Fishbone invited artists including John Akomfrah, Lindsay Seers and Yinka Shonibare to create obstacles for a crazy golf course.

More notable, perhaps, is Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen’s Golf/Typhoon (1996), a monumental sculpture of a set of clubs seemingly being blown from their bag by high winds. Oldenburg’s fellow Pop artist Andy Warhol also paid tribute to the noble sport when, in 1977, he made a portrait of the golfer Jack Nicklaus. But, as Warhol revealed in his diary, the sports star made for a rather uncomfortable model.

‘Richard [Weisman, who commissioned the work] had sent him a book showing my paintings but he didn’t understand the style,’ the artist recalled. For his part, Weisman remembers that Warhol was even less au fait with Nicklaus’s profession. At one point, the artist apparently asked his sitter to move his ‘stick’ to the left as he photographed him; ‘Jack glared and said, “Excuse me, this is not a stick, this is a club”, Weisman later remembered. ‘Then he looked at me and said, “Does this guy know what he is doing?”’

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