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14 Nov 2017

Love all! Artist places tennis court inside repurposed 16th-century church for Milan exhibition
BY Kim Megson

According to a design statement about the installation, 'the artist repurposes the church, a place of messages from higher authorities, into a space of two-way exchange and recreation'

According to a design statement about the installation, 'the artist repurposes the church, a place of messages from higher authorities, into a space of two-way exchange and recreation'
photo: Converso

Artist Asad Raza has created an indoor tennis court with a difference: it sits within a deconsecrated 16th-century church.

Rather than an excitable crowd of spectators, players in the San Paolo Converso arena will be surrounded by murals of Saint Paul. Otherwise, though, the space is set up like a typical court – complete with lines, netting, racquets, chairs, a jug of iced jasmine tea and even coaches to practice with.

The building is a former Roman Catholic church in Milan, with a Baroque façade designed by Italian painter and architect Giovan Battista Crespi. It is now privately owned and has been re-purposed as both the headquarters of architectural firm CLS Architetti and a contemporary art space.

Raza’s orange-floored installation, inspired by his love of tennis, is called 'Untitled (Plot for Dialogue)' and explores how human and non-human beings and objects inhabit space through social practices.

According to a design statement about the installation, “he repurposes the church, a place of messages from higher authorities, into a space of two-way exchange and recreation”.

“He reorients sport as a reflection on the importance of non-productive activities in a society focused on work,” the statement added. “The game serves as a method of absorbing energetic drives into symbolic but non-harmful practices.

“Players respond to each other through the medium of sport and the plot of the court. The piece places the experience of play above purely visual appreciation, as the back-and-forth tennis exchange produces meditative beauty through actions never to be repeated.”

Deconsecrated churches have proven a particularly atmospheric inspiration for artists and designers in recent times. Last year, boutique fitness chain Heartcore opened a health club in a former London church, while in 2015, local skateboarding enthusiasts collaborated with artist Okuda San Miguel to transform a crumbling 100-year old church in Llanera, northern Spain, into a spectacular indoor skate park.



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