The poster is only available from November 12 to 19, during the Nitto ATP Finals
Tennis legend and art lover John McEnroe sat down with acclaimed artist Honor Titus to review the Official Nitto ATP Finals 2023 Poster. Created by Titus and customizable for fans, this limited-edition piece is a new way to celebrate and remember the greatest moments of tennis.
The poster is only available from November 12 to 19, during the Nitto ATP Finals 2023. It is a print and digital collectible. Visit www.artchild.com to know more details.
McEnroe and Titus valued the artist’s work and their common hobbies, among other topics.
Honor Titus: What’s up, John?
John McEnroe: Hey how are you?
HT: Everything’s fine, I’m great. Oh my God. It’s good to see you again!
JM: I’m wondering the same. This is a surprise because, to begin with, we met through my daughter. He told me about your show with Gagosian and the next thing I heard was that you were working on a poster with the ATP for the Finals. I have to know how this idea came about.
HT: The staff in charge [en ATP y Artchild] They contacted my English gallery, Timothy Taylor, and they loved the work. I’m a poster fan, John. From French and Italian poster design, from guys like Jules Cheret. It made perfect sense. I’m very excited, happy to be part of it. Medvedev is my favorite player, so watching him compete is very exciting.
JM: I’m not entirely sure if the poster is inspired by a particular player, like Jerry West in the NBA logo. I’m curious to hear from you if you had a specific person in mind. Also, there seem to be many different designs, with different colors. You have to explain all this to me.
HT: It was a kind of amalgamation. I used a photo of a friend of mine who I play tennis with hitting a backhand. I needed to get the angle right. I’ve been thinking about tennis murals for a while. The idea of a wall where one practices tennis, simply to play with perspective, with those lines,… That idea. But it is based on a photograph. Plus, the colors of the Nitto ATP Finals are so vibrant and bright, and the lighting in the arena. I remember talking to Gagosian about the colors of the ATP Finals because of that range of blues. With the control freak. Are you too John?
JM: (Laughs) You can call me a semi-control freak.
HT: The customization in this adventure was a really new aspect for me. For fans to connect with the poster and access the color palette is exciting. I find it progressive and I think it’s fun for everyone who participates.
JM: I know you’re part of a band punk. I am a big fan of music. In a way, you left and then you showed up. I think many people will be interested in knowing, myself included, how you evolved as an artist and, specifically, focusing many of your works on tennis players or tennis motifs.
HT: Completely. As long as I listened punk street and the boys of the downtown from New York, I continued watching tennis. I kept listening to you, I have always followed this sport. I think tennis has a subtle and elaborate culture. It’s always been on my mind. I have practiced it, I have followed it, I love sport. It moves me the way music does.
JM: You keep singing?
HT: Not anymore. But I keep screaming.
JM: The same happens to me! They keep paying me for it.
HT: (Laughs) When I tried to get paid for it, I couldn’t get it.
JM: Here comes the part that I find most interesting about this whole thing. Obviously, I have been around tennis all my life and I have an academy. I have the feeling that not too many people can afford it. In a way, it addresses that 1%. But here you are succeeding in the art world, one of the few things I would consider even less accessible or permissible to collect, for that 1%. You have to explain to the audience and to me what your point of view is. I find it something very interesting. Because both things are quite inaccessible. And I think we both want to make it more accessible. Can you give me an idea what you think?
HT: It’s an astute and appropriate question. I think I have been a very lucky person in my life. I’m not just a control freak, I’m also obsessive. I think the subtext of your question, John, is access. Some of my friends from high school introduced me to tennis, rock and roll, among other things. I hope that through my work and efforts, I have brought several things to people. I have been lucky to be able to follow my passions. I love learning, studying those things that I love. I like to obsess over things. And I am obsessed with tennis, with French literature and with many other things. All I do is have fun in my obsession. If I can introduce someone to something that they become obsessed with, that’s what I hope to achieve.
JM: A lot of art has crossed my path during these years. And many things were not very good.
JM: And in particular, I would point out the art that contains tennis. It’s encouraging for me to see that where you were painting something in an interesting way, in a way that makes me want to look at it closely. But there is also a political nuance to it, and I think it is important. That attracts me as a collector, as an art fan – not only with your pieces, but in general. The way you’ve done it, especially in your tennis-related work, will be interesting to people. Know how you came to that idea, how you chose the works that are in the exhibition. I didn’t see anything political, but help us understand it.
HT: I try not to be too abrupt. I like to introduce ideas in a subtle way. I think the concept of our official poster is a black figure practicing solo tennis. I can establish a narrative around the idea of loneliness and commitment, practicing alone in an urban environment. I would like the visitor to perceive these things and create their own narratives, their own ideas. In terms of the political undertones of the work, as you were asking me, John, the concept of access is a very profound idea, especially in tennis. What I would like to do is create and conjure images that converse with those ideas, with that idea of access. I have created black figures dressed in white. The wealthy classes were those who could wear white. That’s why these things still appear in our culture. I’m not trying to preach, but I like to play with those ideas. That’s all I do, introduce ideas and converse with those ideas.
JM: You’re talking about access. You grew up in Brooklyn, right?
HT: Yes, in the heart of Brooklyn.
JM: I would say you had access to tennis courts to play on. Is that so?
HT: That’s true. That said, among urban elements,… there are tennis courts around. I grew up near a large sports complex. I ‘ve been very lucky. You wouldn’t say I have the most privileged roots, but through friendship and contacts I have come to different things. I would like to reiterate that this is what I aspire to do with my work. I would like to be that friend who introduces you, exposes you and talks to you. I think that’s what makes the call catch on quickly, John.
JM: How do you choose [las figuras] for your paintings? I think I have seen, among others, Venus Williams. I would like to know how you choose which tennis players to feature, and secondly, because of your success in this show at Gagosian, and in some previous tennis work, if you have continued with that motif. I assume you like being the tennis guy, but you don’t want to just be the tennis guy.
HT: Yes. You are absolutely right, John. I’d say I’ve painted mostly sneakers, if not exclusively this year. In a way, I see it as Picasso’s blue period.
JM: It’s a great period.
HT: In four years, it will be Honor Titus 2023: The Year of Tennis. This is how I visualize it. But I have many other ideas, I have painted debutantes and a range of other things. I have many interests, I become obsessive.
JM: Which players and what reasons led you to choose them in the works you have already completed?
HT: Well, sometimes I just liked the way they looked.
JM: Why the hell haven’t you painted me yet?
HT: We’re working on it, John. I’d love to. I want you to dig through photo albums, see yourself in a Stanford college sweatshirt or something.
JM: Yes Yes. We’ll see what I have there. OK.
HT: We’ll talk about it.
JM: I was wondering, now that I think about it, if you are going to go to Italy and if you will be at the tournament for a few days. If so, I don’t want to say it will be the end, but if you see a stop sign in your tennis work. Apart from painting me, of course. You’ve said you’ve been working on tennis paintings all year. In a way it’s like the tour, you play tournaments all season long and then you go to the ATP Finals, if you’re lucky enough to be one of the top eight players. After this, everything starts again. The meat grinder starts up and the points are up for grabs again. I wonder if you look at your career the same way.
HT: That’s very clever, I think it’s appropriate. Yes, tennis paintings are coming to an end. Apart from yours! But perhaps I will put the final point in my next exhibition. I have some ideas related to well-known characters. I think you could be considered for the next concept.
JM: Oh perfect. Hopefully. Thank you very much for this honor.
HT: John, I wanted to ask you a question. As an academy owner and as a tennis fan, is the idea of the wall a good one? Is it useful to practice with the wall? What do you think?
JM: For the record, I started by playing with a wall. It is a good idea. If someone rallies against a wall he will realize something: he never fails. The ball always comes back. It’s a good way to start for anyone. And it’s a lot cheaper than going to a track and paying for things that most people can’t afford. I have been insisting for some time to have it available in my academy. We don’t have a tennis wall. We have many slopes and we are in a good location to practice sports. I think it’s a good item to have if possible. So yes, you can continue painting tennis walls.
HT: I wanted to ask you something else. If there is anything I can help you with with your academy or in general, please let me know.
JM: Yes, definitely. For example, we raise funds every year [para el Johnny Mac Tennis Project] and maybe we could make some kind of poster. It would be something incredible. I have always been a big fan of art, a big fan of sports. Obviously tennis has been an important part of my life. So seeing someone like you succeed with something close to my heart has been fantastic. Any last words for the ATP Finals, for tennis, your career and the art with which you have come?
HT: Yes, we have to continue enjoying it, John.
JM: I like it that way, boy. Rock and roll, baby!
HT: Exactly. We will continue enjoying. I really appreciate your time. I loved our conversation, we did well.
JM: I think it was good, I hope we see each other soon and we can talk about this masterpiece. McEnroe’s masterpiece.
HT: I need you to look in your photo album. I want you to send me some images of the university. I would love that.
JM: Without a doubt, take it for granted. It has been a pleasure talking to you, I hope to see you soon and congratulations on the poster. I’m glad to know that you are going to visit Turin. Please say hi to the boys for me.
HT: I will do that. Goodbye, John.
JM: Take care of yourself.
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