Tomislav Topic Presents a Sandy, Tennis-Inspired Installation Outside SCOPE Art Fair

Miami Beach installation. Image courtesy of the artist.

Tomislav Topic had never picked up a tennis racket before. Nor, for that matter, had he wielded a pickleball paddle. But when he was offered the opportunity to create an installation—a tennis court that would later play host to the infamous tennis star Nick Kyrgios—he took it.

Tomislav Topic, the 38-year-old Berlin-based artist celebrated for his site-specific chromatics and public graphics, embarked on a few "firsts" while presenting his work on the coastal sands of Miami Beach. On December 6th, Tomislav unveiled his aforementioned work—the Joe and the Juice installation he had designed and painted three days prior. Operating from a dearth of sports knowledge and without any clear constraints, the artist drew inspiration from iconic Miami imagery— Miami Vice, specifically—and the juice brand’s signature hues. The resulting tennis court was a delightful swirl of pinks, oranges, and blues enriched with texture created by the mixture of paint and sand. 

Despite the general rule that art is meant to be admired from a distance, Tomislav embraced the idea of  interaction during the activation. The installation, which was enhanced by a juice bar in true country club fashion, accompanied by wheeled courts, where people alighted for a game or two atop the installation’s surface. Even Nick Kyrgios—one of only three players in the world to defeat the sport’s Big Three (Djokovic, Federer, and Nadal) endorsed Tomislav's approach, suggesting that the tennis world should "take notes" from Tomislav’s freeform court design. “I definitely think tennis could play with the aesthetics of the court a little more, I think if they did it right and took the time, they could collaborate with some artists to do a court,” Kyrgios said. 

While overlooking the multicolored court, the question of what it would look like if Kyrgios designed a court arose. “An all-black court, for sure,” he said.

Miami Beach installation. Image courtesy of the artist.

It's your first time installing artwork for Joe and the Juice and opening the show for the SCOPE Art Fair. How do "firsts" inspire your work?

I go to see the space myself and look at how the space gives me direction. Do I fill it out completely?What effect do I want to have? The idea, of course, was to cover the whole ceiling, but I also wanted to bring something more interesting to it. The inspiration for the colors came from when I closed my eyes and thought about  Miami Beach. I mean, I'm from Germany. We grew up with movies from the United States, like Miami Vice. I wanted to have something very bright that would look interesting with the white sand around it and the ocean in the background.

Once you were presented with the prompt of the installation, where did your mind travel to instantly? What were the first steps in your process?

I mean, I've never painted on the floor. When I got the request, I said, “Okay, let's do it.” Why not? I've never painted a court, and that could be funny. My abstract paintings are always freestyle, there is no sketch before. So, they were open-minded and gave me their trust. 

Miami Beach installation. Image courtesy of the artist.

Your use of color is what sticks out most. When thinking of a traditional tennis court, what did you take and leave from traditional tennis and pickleball courts?

My abstract paintings mostly have more than one color, and no lines. So, at first, I thought, Will this even make sense? People probably get confused on that court because there's so much going on. But to be honest, I didn't care about that. I don't mind if a traditional tennis court looked like this or like that. They want a painting, and they’ll get a painting. 

Can you go into more detail about the colors you used and the process of blending these colors?

For the court, I had just 16 colors to choose from because it's a special tennis court [paint]. This would be mixed with sand. So out of 16 colors, I chose eight colors, and there's a wonderful gradient happening in between. Since I'm doing that directly on-site, I can go in with a wet roller. Many colors are created authentically on-site. That's really what I love; I love to play on-site with colors and gradients. And the gradients are never 100% perfect. That is what makes a painting. Otherwise, we could have printed it.

You used a mix of sand and paint to create texture on the court, where does that technique come from and why did you decide to use this method?

They told me to. When they sent me the request, I thought, I'm gonna paint with regular acrylic paint. And then there will be a covering, like a transparent layer on top of it, mixed with sand for grip. But they said, “No, you need to mix the paint with the sand directly.” I liked it because the sand makes the color very matte; the colors seem deeper. 

Miami Beach installation. Image courtesy of the artist.

Are there any other processes or techniques that were essential to making the court that would've been missed by the naked eye?

When I started in the evening, it was super humid and wet, so the paint didn't dry at all. It was just composition lines, which I do before I start with the colors, so this would not be visible. It was also kind of a pain in the ass to work in the evening, because the colors wouldn’t dry quickly enough.

What emotions came up when you saw people playing on the court?

I saw people playing and it seemed like they had fun. No one slipped. I think the right amount of sand was in the paint. So yeah, it seemed like people were not disturbed by the painting, but also because of the white lines, which were very crisp. I'm coming from the graffiti scene, so I grew up painting on surfaces I knew would be destroyed. When you have sculptures in public spaces, they become part of our environment until no one cares about them anymore. I like that.