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For a new show at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, football legends are in the spotlight, celebrating the first time the Superbowl will take place in New York. Opening Jan. 24 and running until Feb. 10, the Met is displaying "Gridiron Greats," an exhibition of 150 football cards of collegiate athletes, owners, teams, and the original pigskin kings.
The collection makes up just a fraction of the 300,000 cards donated by the late collector Jefferson Burdick to the Met. The oldest series in "Gridiron Greats" dates back to 1897.
The Met's assistant curator of the department of drawings and prints, Freyda Spira, said of the choice to show what might be considered an unusual medium for the Met, "Commercially printed lithographs are part of our printed visual culture. It's viewed within the spectrum of what art is." In June, the Met hosted an exhibition of baseball cards from the sport's worst period, the Dead Ball Era.
Some of Burdick's most notable cards include Notre Dame coach Knute Rockne, one of the first inductees into the Hall of Fame, Illinois running back Harold "Red" Grange, and Kenneth Washington, the first black player in the NFL.
The Met isn't the only museum banking on sports as having appeal "for a mass public," as Spira noted. In Los Angeles, LACMA is opening "Fútbol: The Beautiful Game," an exhibition about soccer in visual art, next month. LACMA's show is pegged to the 2014 World Cup in Brazil this summer.