Pre-Super Bowl Feature: The Complete Spot Paintings of the NFL

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By Ken Carbone

The art world is seeing spots, lots of them.

Currently, the Gagosian Gallery is exhibiting three hundred and thirty one paintings by Damien Hirst in eight cities around the globe. The show entitled “The Complete Spot Paintings 1986-2011” features stark white canvases covered in neatly arranged, candy colored dots.

Famous for his pickled shark and diamond-encrusted skull, Damien Hirst has mounted yet another “love it or hate it” art spectacle that has been applauded for its brilliance and criticized for it superficiality. Roberta Smith of the New York Times says that, “Mr. Hirst is the post-Warhol, post-Barnum epitome of the artist as impresario, public relations strategist, graphic designer and art director”.

On an academic level, there are elements of “graphic design” in Mr. Hirst’s work. The form and color are pure enough but I wouldn’t hire him based on this portfolio. However, while he bathes in the media glow of the moment, this comes at a time when zillions of people are focused on something else entirely: football.

Pre-Super Bowl madness is in full swing and the sale of guacamole and chips is about to reach its annual zenith. I’ve been following both the Hirst phenomenon and the NFL drama and recognized a rare opportunity to combine these two worlds in a visual mash-up. I’ve “appropriated” Damien Hirst’s rigid painting motif and the primary brand colors of the thirty-two NFL teams as an infographic to create:

“The Complete Spot Paintings” of the 2011-2012 NFL Season

These “infographics” track the league activity from the regular season, through the divisional championships and on to the Super Bowl XLVI:

Painting #1: The Thirty-Two Teams of the NFLThey’re all here with the primary team colors arranged as horizontal pairs. Many of the teams have similar hues. As a native of Philadelphia, my “Eagles” in green and silver, are on row 7, pair 4. Can you find your team?

Painting#2: The Twelve Teams of “Wildcard Weekend”As the regular season came to a close, the field narrowed down to twelve fierce combatants, which offers a colorful, alternate arrangement to the grid.

Painting #3: The Eight Teams of the Divisional PlayoffsThere continued to be winners and losers as the post-season intensified. The Denver Broncos (row 1, pair 1) were about to be trounced by the New England Patriots (row 1 pair 2).

Painting #4: The Four Teams of the Conference ChampionshipsAs the action on the gridiron grew more exciting the colors on the canvas became less so. This is where the distinction between the team colors becomes a matter of nuance, a word never whispered in the huddle.

Painting #5: The Two Teams in Super Bowl LXVIIt all comes down to the New York Giants and the New England Patriots who will face off in Indianapolis next Sunday, February 5 at Lucas Oil Stadium. The difference in color between these two teams is almost indecipherable, but ask their fans and they’ll tell you these rivals have absolutely nothing in common.

Painting#6: My Prediction: The Winner of the Super Bowl XLVI

(Hint, I live in New York)


Ken Carbone is the co-founder of the Carbone Smolan Agency with Leslie Smolan. Among America’s most respected graphic designers, his work is renowned for its clarity and intelligence. He has built an international reputation creating outstanding programs for world-class clients, including Tiffany & Co., W.L Gore, Herman Miller, PBS, Christie’s, Nonesuch Records, the W Hotel Group and The Taubman Company. His clients also include celebrated cultural institutions such as the Museé du Louvre, The Museum of Modern Art, The Pierpont Morgan Library, The Chicago Symphony Orchestra and the High Museum of Art. He is also a frequent contributor to

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