Football’s coming…to Manchester International Festival (with a little help from soccer player Juan Mata)


The love affair between art and football is set to deepen this summer with the launch of a project at the Manchester International Festival (MIF, 29 June-16 July) overseen by the Spanish player Juan Mata.

The initiative, called The Trequartista-Art and Football United, involves 11 collaborations, bringing together different artists and footballers for each partnership. The 11 teams will work together over two years—organised by Mata and Hans Ulrich Obrist, the artistic director of the Serpentine Galleries in London—culminating in a group show at the 2025 edition of MIF.

The project kicks off with This entry, a piece by Tino Sehgal who is known for his “constructed situations” involving live encounters. The piece, co-presented by Mata, will go on show at the National Football Museum (29 June-5 July) and the Whitworth in Manchester (7 July-16 July). “This entry is a playful choreographic exchange between a footballer, violinist, cyclist and a singing dancer,” says an MIF statement.

The latest edition of MIF—the first festival to commission and produce new works across all cultural sectors—will take place at venues throughout Manchester and also at Factory International’s long-awaited new 13,350 sq. m building, designed by Rem Koolhaas’s Office for Metropolitan Architecture (OMA), which officially opens in October. Asked if programming the vast new space will be a challenge, John McGrath, the chief executive of Factory International, says he “does not have enough space for the artists who want to work there”.

Yayoi Kusama’s large-scale installation You, Me and the Balloons will fill Factory International (30 June-28 August), comprising giant dolls, polka-dot creations and tendrilled sculptures. The centrepiece exhibition brings together “for the first time a collection of the renowned Japanese artist’s most significant inflatable works from the past 30 years”, the MIF statement adds.

Meanwhile, the artist Ryan Gander will plant collectable coins all over the city, encouraging visitors to find his hidden works inscribed with words of advice for his project, The Find. Another high-profile artist, the UK photographer Benji Reid—who says online that he “shines a light on the Black British experience”—promises to create “live photographs” in front of an audience, weaving the action with key moments from his life (Find Your Eyes, 12-16 July).

Factory International has been described as the largest public investment in a UK cultural project since the opening of Tate Modern in 2000. According to the Manchester City council website, more than £105m in national public funding has been secured for the Factory International project including £78m HM Treasury investment, £7m in Arts Lottery funding and £21m Kickstart Capital funding from the government’s Cultural Recovery Fund. Manchester City Council has also contributed more than £50m to date. Entry to Factory International is free with charges for special exhibitions.


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