STAGES: Art for the Lance Armstrong Foundation

As Lance Armstrong cycled toward the finish in the Tour de France, his foundation, in conjunction with Nike, mounted a benefit art exhibition, STAGES, to engage the creative community in the fight against cancer. Taking place at Galerie Emmanuel Perrotin, one of Paris’ premiere art venues, STAGES — whose title references both the daily parts of the race and the phases of cancer — offers a lively group of artworks by 20 established and emerging artists.

Dynamically installed in Perrotin’s main space, the show presents a mix of contemporary art by modern masters, including Ed Ruscha, Cai Guo-Qiang, Richard Prince, Christopher Wool, Catherine Opie, and Tom Sachs, as well as youthful artists associated with the street-art and skate scenes, such as KAWS, Shepard Fairey, Dzine, José Parlá, and Eric White.

While benefit exhibitions usually display a lopsided mix, this show sparkles with excellent pieces, partly because of the “yellow” color concept — a reference to the yellow jersey worn each day by the winner of the previous day’s Tour stage — and partly because the artists Armstrong selected care so much for the cause. Beside the request to use yellow in their works, artists were asked to make something that either referred to the sport of cycling or to the battle with cancer.

Cai Guo-Qiang contributes one of his seminal gunpowder-on-paper pieces, Tree With Yellow Blossoms, on a four-panel folding screen. Dzine made a jaw-dropping, customized lowrider bicycle, complete with 24-karat gold hand-grips, chrome and nickel-plated elements, and its own music mix. Richard Prince donated a new painting, which uniquely combines his nurse motif with his equally recognizable joke theme. The joke, which references the song “Won’t You Come Home Bill Bailey,” is overlaid on a field of nurses from pulp-fiction novels.

Aaron Young offers one of his burnout paintings, made by painting aluminum panels with layers of color and then grinding out the surface layer with a motorcycle. José Parlá used a loose form of writing, which gets layered and layered, to construct a stunning abstract painting that looks like a graffiti-bombed piece of the street pulled into the gallery. Meanwhile, photographers Catherine Opie and Andreas Gursky provide views of the asphalt roads that Armstrong actually maneuvers.

Some of the artists in the exhibition, including Kenny Scharf, KAWS, and Shepard Fairey, also made bikes for Amstrong to ride, while Tom Sachs made his art from one. Titled Lance’s Tequila Bike for Girls, it comes with booze instead of water, and a license plate that reads “Bitch” — providing a moment of humor in what might otherwise be considered a serious, but awe-inspiring show.

STAGES is on view at Galerie Emmanuel Perrotin through August 8, and will travel to the Park Avenue Armory in New York in the fall. An image gallery of work in the show is viewable at The Daily Beast.

Image credit: Christopher Wool, Untitled, 2009. Courtesy the artist, Luhring Augustine, and Nike