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From Serena Williams to John McEnroe, the tennis stars with ace collections

9 February 2021

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

Architectural Digest’s Open Door videos are a must-watch for any committed celeb watcher. The latest star to welcome AD’s cameramen into her home is Serena Williams, who shows off her trophy room (champion’s prizes only: ‘we don’t keep second place’) and private art gallery (‘What if I had a formal living room,’ Williams says, ‘but instead of it being a living room it’s called an art gallery’). As well as pieces by Kaws and Radcliffe Bailey and a pair of doors from Nepal, the gallery contains one of Williams’s own creations: a Lucio Fontana-esque slashed abstraction, the rip partly stitched up with red thread.

Serena Williams is not the only tennis star to have demonstrated a sympathy for the visual arts. John McEnroe, who once said that ‘the greatest compliment I ever got was when people called me an artist’, is a serious art collector. Over the years he has acquired pieces by the likes of Basquiat, Warhol and Ed Ruscha. He is also a good friend of Eric Fischl, with whom he swapped art lessons for tennis lessons in the 1980s. (Fischl is big on tennis: in 2000, his monumental sculpture of Arthur Ashe was unveiled at Flushing Meadows, New York, where the US Open is played every year.)

Double vision: John McEnroe standing in front of Andy Warhol’s 1986 portrait of McEnroe and Tatum O’Neil from 1986.

Doubles vision: John McEnroe in front of Andy Warhol’s 1986 portrait of McEnroe and Tatum O’Neil from 1986. Photo by Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images

And then there’s Andy Murray, whose wife Kim has a line in pet portraits. Murray himself has started collecting works by Maggi Hambling, who made a portrait of the tennis player that entered the National Portrait Gallery’s collection last year. And he’s admitted that, while recovering from his recent hip injury, he had a crack at this art racket himself. ‘I was trying to do the flicking like paint, Jackson Pollock type stuff, it was literally going on the ceiling and was everywhere,’ he told Tennis Channel. ‘My painting was terrible.’

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