When the summer sun gets too hot to hit the links, enjoy the leisure sport via your eyeballs at The Art of Golf, the Oklahoma City Museum of Art’s newest exhibition, opening Thursday.
Organized by the High Museum of Art in Atlanta and the National Galleries of Scotland, it is the first exhibition devoted to the game to appear in a major American art museum.
“It’s really fascinating, because the works in the exhibition start in the 17th century and then go all the way up to the present day,” said Alison Amick, OKCMOA curator for collections. “It’s a very rare opportunity to, first of all, have 17th-century Dutch paintings on view and then to have such a very specific narrative in terms of looking at golf.”
The Art of Golf allows visitors to examine the history and evolution of the game through some 90 works by such notables as Rembrandt, Norman Rockwell and Andy Warhol. The centerpiece is The Golfers, a 1847 oil painting by Charles Lees depicting a match being played on Scotland’s Old Course of St. Andrews.
“This painting is very widely produced in the golf world and it’s never before traveled to the United States, so it’s very significant,” Amick said.
The exhibition includes works of a variety of media, including photographs, prints, preparatory sketches and drawings.
Examples of golfiana — historical objects such as antique golf balls, clubs and clothing — will be on display, as well.
“For golf enthusiasts, I think it will be fascinating seeing its origins,” Amick said. “It does a really nice job of hitting all aspects of golf. Then if one is perhaps not a sports enthusiast or doesn’t know much about golf, you can learn a little bit about golf and its interesting history. Stylistically, there’s a little bit for everyone.”
Another aspect of The Art of Golf is artwork portraying links celebrities such as Tiger Woods and Bobby Jones, who’ve helped popularize the game.
“[The variety] really is quite remarkable,” Amick said, noting the exhibition runs through Oct. 7, when it heads to the Museum of Fine Arts in St. Petersburg, Fla.
“It’s just something that hasn’t been done before. The sport of golf extends back historically much longer then a number of other sports, so there’s an opportunity to show its evolution artistically, historically, in a way you couldn’t necessarily do with other sports or subjects.”
top Charles Lees' The Golfers (1847)
bottom Norman Rockwell’s Old Man of Tracy (1926)