From Going to the Match to going once, going twice… sold! This icon of working-class sporting art needs to stay on view for the public in Salford

Manchester United, Manchester City and Salford City should be campaigning to keep LS Lowry’s masterpiece of football art history where it belongs, writes Laura Lawrence.

Embed from Getty Images

LS Lowry’s Going to the Match is to be sold by Christie’s on October 19. The painting is currently owned by the Professional Footballer’s Association (PFA). The sale is due to the foundation saying it “no longer has any income guaranteed”. A sad indictment of the industry leaving its vulnerable to rot.

The situation has left a question mark hanging over where the painting will end up and if it will disappear into a private collection, away from the general public.

So, why does it matter?

LS Lowry’s Going to the Match is an icon of sporting art. Correction, it’s an icon of working-class sporting art. Until this point in art history, cricket may have featured but it was mainly gentry’s horses and horse racing. Lowry painted what he saw around him the industrial north-west and what he saw was football and rugby league.

Going to the Match depicts a crowd of fans making their way into a wintery Burnden Park stadium, the former home of Bolton Wanderers, in 1953. A powerhouse club of its generation. In the distance you can see the industrial landscape that made the region, that bore the fans who are using their leisure time to support their club. It evokes a feeling that football supporters will relate to all over this country across generations. If you want a reimagined version look no further than David Squires’ cartoon strip in The Guardian, this week. A tradition of an artist reminding us of the times we live in.

The painting has been on loan to the Lowry arts centre in Salford for the past 22 years since the PFA purchased it for £2million. It is not only one of the Salford artist’s best known works it is a snapshot of time. This painting won the ‘Football and the Fine Arts’ prize which was held by the FA and the Arts Council of Great Britain.

In the summer I went to view the Football Art Prize in Sheffield’s Millennium Galleries (on until October 30th if you’re interested.) The art varied in quality but what they didn’t lack were passion or a sense of humanity and place. Art that grounds us in what we love.

Images: Laura Lawrence

LS Lowry’s Going to the Match needs to stay in its rightful place, Salford. Where the public can see it in context, not hanging on the wall of some billionaire’s billiards room. Manchester United, Manchester City and even the owners of Salford City should be campaigning to keep this piece of football art history where it belongs.

It matters because pieces of our football heritage are being constantly acquired. Custodianship isn’t a consideration anymore. The price is to own and not preserve and enjoy.

There is enough money in football to be philanthropic in this case and keep this iconic piece of football art history on view for the people.

Follow Laura on Twitter @YICETOR

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