Image from Size Does Matter, 2010. Photography by Genevieve Hanson, via
This article originally appeared on Vice Sports.
EXPO Chicago—the city's "International Exposition of Contemporary and Modern Art"—is housed in the cavernous Festival Hall of Navy Pier, and vast enough to fill the place. It's all white and gray and silver halls, lined with innumerable (and expensive) art works from an international array of galleries. One approaches the EXPO floor and feels overwhelmed at the light, the space, the surrounding creation; it is like the first chapter of Genesis.
And here, amid it all, is the biggest name in an exposition full of them, a man who garners the kind of attention and Jovian gravitational pull all artists lust for: the Big Aristotle, the original Superman, Art Diesel, Shaquille O'Neal.
O'Neal stands in the booth of the FLAG Art Foundation, surrounded on three sides by the works he has helped curate for the exhibition SHAQ LOVES PEOPLE, and facing a small phalanx of crab-eyed TV cameras and flashing photographers. He is as large as one would expect, even in such expansive environs, surprisingly un-intimidating in both psychic and physical presence, graceful in a behemothic way, and with a friendly, low rumble in his voice; the effect is akin to seeing a C-130 Hercules in a 50-yard-line flyover.The FLAG Art Foundation is a New York City based exhibition space—meaning they do not sell the art; that would make them a gallery—with a focus on presenting contemporary art to as diverse an audience as possible.
O'Neal has curated a show with FLAG before, 2010's Size Does Matter, which was installed in the Foundation's Chelsea Art Tower space. Art Diesel, currently flanked before the assembled press corps by FLAG founder Glenn Fuhrman and director Stephanie Roach, is the face of the Foundation's first exposition at a contemporary art fair, and only its second outside Chelsea.
"We were invited by the Chicago EXPO [sic] to come put on a non-selling exhibition here at the art fair," Fuhrman says. "Shaquille is an amazing person. Obviously, he is known as one of the greatest basketball players that has ever been on the planet, but he is constantly looking for ways to challenge himself."
In putting on an exhibition of portraiture, O'Neal and FLAG were inspired by his multifarious, still strong fan base. "Everyone that we know, old, young, internationally, American, no matter where you're from, everybody loves Shaq," Fuhrman explains. "And he said 'Well, I love everybody also.'"
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Image Credits: Cherl Eisenberg-Carol Fox & Associates