Andre Agassi's Trip to the Louvre
What follows is an excerpt from Andre Agassi’s 2017 autobiography, Open.* Aside from being a privileged glimpse into the man’s heart, it also reveals what I find so wonderful about art: its ability to touch the soul and tell or share a story.
A little context for this quote: Andre was raised in a home with a perfectionistic father who mercilessly drove him to perfect his tennis abilities. The year was 1987 and Andre was a teenager just beginning his professional tennis career.
We fly to Paris for the French Open. More red clay [tennis courts]. I manage to win my first-rounder, but get spanked in the second. Again, Philly [Andre’s brother] and I try to see something of the city, to improve ourselves. We go to the Louvre. The sheer number of paintings and sculptures daunts us. We don’t know where to turn, how to stand. We can’t comprehend all that we’re seeing. We pass from room to room, dumbstruck. Then we come to a piece that we understand all too well. It’s a painting from the Italian Renaissance and it depicts a young man, naked, standing on a cliff. With one hand he clutches a bare, breaking tree limb. With the other he holds a woman and two infants. Wrapped around his neck is an old man, perhaps his father, who also grasps a sack of what looks like money. Below them lies an abyss strewn with bodies of those who couldn’t hold on. Everything depends on this one naked man’s strength – his grip.
The longer you look, I tell Philly, the tighter that old guy’s arm around the hero’s neck feels.
Philly nods. He looks up at the man on the cliff and says softly: Hang in there, bro.
* Open, An Autobiography, Andre Agassi, Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 2017, pp. 107-108