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Le Tour de France by James Straffon

Tour de France by James Straffon

Exhibition preview

CYCLING’S premier event, The Tour de France, is to be the subject of a major exhibition of 70 new artworks by artist James Straffon. It will be on display from June 30 to July 28 at pop culture gallery Snap, in the heart of St James’s in central London.

Spanning over one hundred years of sporting endeavour, James Straffon’s LE TOUR – from Maillot Jaune to Lanterne Rouge is a solo exhibition of new work, created as homage to the famous Tour de France cycling race.

The start date for the exhibition is the first day of the 2012 Tour de France, and the exhibition extends beyond the Tour, ending on the day of the men’s Olympic road race, which takes place in London on Saturday, July 28, 2012.

In the exhibition, James Straffon presents a spectrum of artworks that reframe the uniqueness of ‘La Grande Boucle’, (as the Tour is known in France), in a modern context.

Comprising mixed-media compositions, three-dimensional installation pieces, and vintage decoupage, the LE TOUR exhibition revisits the culture, emotion, drama, human fortitude and frailty of what has been described as “the most physiologically demanding of athletic events.”

Tour de France contender Bradley Wiggins has donated a pair of his cycling shoes to the exhibition, which Straffon has converted into an installation piece that pays homage to British cycling legend Tom Simpson, whose fateful ascent of Mont Ventoux took place in July 1967.

Simpson was the first Briton to wear the Tour’s yellow jersey in 1962, and the exhibition coincides with the 50th anniversary of this event, which is being marked with a special drinks reception hosted by Rapha at the gallery. The Wiggins shoe, titled MODifications, is being auctioned during the exhibition, with proceeds going to charity.

Incorporating a diverse palette of rare and unusual items of cycling memorabilia, Straffon focuses on the engrossing human stories and complex subplots, making pictures from the past, his muse – 21 days of racing, held annually since 1903.

Artworks included in LE TOUR exhibition feature tour legends Eddy Merckx, Tom Simpson, Lance Armstrong, Jacques Anquetil, Fausto Coppi, Louison Bobet, Gino Bartali, Charly Gaul and many more, both well known and obscure.

LE TOUR repositions a sporting event, and its players, as a gallery of devotional imagery. Focusing on the visually-rich narrative of cycling heritage, dating back over a century of road racing, and an associated ‘cinematographic’ lifestyle, Straffon incorporates pigment, collage, pen, resin and other mixed-media to build iconic imagery of the great and good, the highs and lows, and the panorama viewable from a unique sporting discipline.

Owner of Snap Galleries, Guy White comments: “The timing of this exhibition is incredibly important, and not just because it straddles both the Tour and the Olympic road race, where we Brits stand a very real chance of podiums and medals with Bradley Wiggins and Mark Cavendish.

“Equally as importantly, it is timely because it taps into an era – and that era is right now – where cycling has become the new religion for many men in their 40s. And I speak as a convert because I’m one of them.”

White continues: “There is nothing in cycling bigger than the Tour de France, and over the decades, the Tour has fueled a quasi-religious devotion among cycling fans to their Tour heroes. This devotion is very cleverly referenced by James Straffon in many of the exhibition artworks.

“Visitors to the exhibition will find that the sheer variety of work on show is staggering, whether it is the collection of original paintings of important Tour team jerseys; the fourteen resin coated triptychs featuring icons of the sport created from historic cycling magazines and ephemera from the 40s, 50’s and 60s; the installation pieces featuring bike frames and shoes; or the installation artwork that includes an original vinyl version of Kraftwerk’s single Tour De France, with an ipod attached that plays the music on a loop.”

Straffon has exhibited at the London Design Festival, and at Paul Smith’s Globe store in Heathrow T5, as well as his flagship Floral Street store. “Great stuff,” commented Sir Paul Smith, on Straffon’s first solo exhibition, in November 2010.

A 72-page book accompanies the exhibition, published by Rapha Racing.

Admission: Free.

Times: Tuesday to Saturday from 11am to 5pm.

NB: All the artworks are for sale.

Snap Galleries, 12 Piccadilly Arcade, London, SW1Y 6NH

Tel: 020 7493 1152