Tomorrow, March 18, the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston (CAMH) and adidas Basketball will debut CAMH COURT, which the institution says is the first-ever playable basketball court installed in an art museum.
In celebration of the NCAA Men’s Final Four®, which will be hosted in Houston in early April, CAMH commissioned Houston-based artist Trenton Doyle Hancock to design an installation that transforms the museum’s upstairs Brown Foundation Gallery into a regulation size court featuring the artist’s fantastical characters and designs on the court floor and the backboards. Adding to the whimsy of the design is that the typically rectangular court has been skewed into a parallelogram.
CAMH COURT expands on the organization’s relationship with Mr. Hancock, and on its affiliations with basketball. In 2001, CAMH presented Hancock’s first solo museum exhibition, Trenton Doyle Hancock: The Life and Death of #1. In the years since then, the museum featured Hancock’s work in the group show Splat, Boom Pow! The Influence of Comics in Contemporary Art (2003) and held a retrospective of his work titled Trenton Doyle Hancock: Skin and Bones, 20 Years of Drawing (2014). And just last year, the museum, in collaboration with the Houston Rockets, commissioned Houston artists to create commemorative posters commemorating iconic Rockets players.
The project also builds on the history of artist-designed sports environments. In 1977, painter and sculptor Robert Indiana, perhaps best known for his “LOVE” sculpture, painted the Milwaukee Bucks’ basketball court floor. In 2000, Steven Badgett and Matt Lynch, as the collaborative duo Simparch, constructed a full-scale skatebowl shaped like a kidney swimming pool that was accessible to skateboarders during gallery hours. More recently, Project Backboard, a nonprofit organization established in 2015, has worked with artists to beautify and revitalize basketball courts across the United States.
In a press release announcing the installation, CAMH Executive Director Hesse McGraw stated, “We’re always aiming to have new and unexpected experiences at CAMH. Through one of the first playable basketball courts in an arts institution, we can continue to present varied experiences for anyone who walks through the door.”
CAMH COURT will be open to all ages, though players must sign a waiver to play and wear rubber-soled shoes when on the court. Slipover shoe covers will be provided to visitors who are not wearing rubber-soled shoes. Basketballs can be checked out from the front desk with any form of ID. Players under the age of 18 must have a parent or guardian present.
CAMH plans to work with community partners to activate the court with programming and events throughout the duration of the exhibition. A final event, the CAMH Ball, will take place on Saturday, April 29, and will be a sneakers-only iteration of the organization’s annual gala and auction.
CAMH COURT will be on view from March 18 through April 27, 2023.
Such an amazing idea! Sometimes contemporary art can get stuck in theoretical silos and feel exclusive to the general visitor. Definitely appreciate how CAMH keeps coming up with innovative ways to merge basketball with the art world.