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A BIGGER SPLASH: POOLS IN THE ART WORLD

We take a deep dive into the pools in the art and film world

Ah, swimming pools. Who doesn’t love them? The signature of summer and a symbol of good health and athleisure. When you think of swimming pools, it’s hard not to think of yourself on a sunlounger, cocktail in one hand, pretending to read a book with the other, in somewhere, anywhere, more exotic than home; say, a Greek Island or at The Beverly Hills Hotel. But the swimming pool, perhaps a form of escapism for many, is also an unforgettable tool in the art world. 

Take the film industry for example, that scene in The Graduate where Dustin Hoffman is idly floating on a lilo in his parents pool when his father interrogates him about his ‘drifting’ through life. How about the opening credits to Sexy Beast, in which Ray Winston sunbathes by his private pool wearing only those orange briefs, a gold chain necklace and a copious coating of tanning oil? Iconic! And who else watched He’s Just Not That Into You and earnestly wondered whether they too could lure Bradley Cooper’s attraction by swimming nude like Scarlett Johansson does? Let’s not forget the pool party scene either - an integral part of many of the movies in KOIBIRD’s favourite films catalogue. Boogie Nights, American Hustle, Eight Grade and Ladybird explicitly demonstrate having a private pool as a status of wealth, and denotes everything from 70s Hollywood glamour to the teen experience. 

A Bigger Splash by David Hockney

But swimming pools aren’t limited to the screen. Both Hockney and Matisse have employed the swimming pool as a prop for their work. Hockney’s paintings A Bigger Splash and Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures) depict the woozy candy colours of Los Angeles, and the focus? Not the figure, but the pool. It’s a work often cited in popular culture, inspiring everything from Jacquemus collections to director Luca Guadagnino.

In conceptual art, The Swimming Pool installation by Leandro Erlich is an optical phenomenon and groundbreaking work. Scandinavian duo Elmgreen & Dragset admitted to also having ‘a swimming pool fetish’ in an interview with The Guardian in 2016, the same year their sculpture Van Gogh’s Ear - an ear lobe shaped 1950s pool that stands vertically - was placed outside the Rockefeller building in New York. The pair also showcased The Whitechapel Pool in 2018.

The Swimming Pool installation by Leandro Erlich

Noted photographer Slim Aarons was also known for being as obsessed with swimming pools – featuring them in his work almost as much as he did the American upper class. Works such as Poolside Glamour, Nice Pool and Poolside Gossip are his most famous, and all feature wealthy socialites sitting around pools in Beverly Hills, Bermuda and beyond. Where most works in the art world set to glamorise the swimming pool, or at least use it as a device to depict glamour itself, Wolfgang Tillmans photograph Hallenbad Detail draws lights to the average public pool. Looking at it conjures memories of those stifling hot days in London when Shoreditch House is full, so you find yourself seeking refuge at lidos in London Fields or the Serpentine.

But sometimes swimming pools don’t have to be featured in art to be considered a work of art themselves. Who else has the Picasso pool in Marbella in their saved folder on Instagram? And have you seen artist Alex Proba’s Palm Springs painted pool? What about the pool at Gianni Versace’s Miami house? They are all at the top of the KOIBIRD pool swoon list.  

Palm Springs painted pool by Alex Proba

And just when you think you’re culturally full to the brim of pool talk, desperately gagging to jump into any body of water - be it a paddling pool or Hampstead Heath ponds - let us wet your appetite for fancy AF pools even further with our top ones on the KOI Bucket List...

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