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“People just don’t see it coming,” says The Art of Ping Pong co-founder Algy Batten of the wall-mounted artwork that transforms into a ping-pong table in seconds. “The thing our customers love most is that when it’s on the wall, it suggests nothing about table tennis. They get people commenting on their art, and then they go: check this out.”
Graphic designer Batten has a long history of bringing people together for ping-pong tournaments, converting his design agency meeting table into centre court and, more recently, hosting Friday-night tournaments with friends in his east London garage. He and his wife Caroline Moorhouse (they met at Run Dem Crew, the east London running club) launched AoPP in 2012 and since then, their mission to “make art more playful” has gone global; AoPP is stocked in Riyadh’s Harvey Nichols, Neiman Marcus in the US and Beymen in Istanbul. “We want to create art that people can engage with, that they can connect with other people over and that has a sense of play,” says Batten of the vibrant selection of tables (£1,200), nets (from £165), bats (from £26) and balls (£9.99).
AoPP x André Saraiva ArtNet, £250, ArtBats, £120 for pair, and ArtBall, £12 for four
Made in Europe using premium-grade birch plywood, the ArtTables are hand-finished by Batten and Moorhouse in their east London studio. But the couple also collaborate with artists on limited-edition bats and tables. Last year they worked with Yayoi Kusama and M+ on an editioned bat set (currently selling on artsy.net for $3,280). This month, AoPP launches a full limited-edition collection with André Saraiva (aka Mr A), the Swedish-French graffiti artist whom Batten has long admired. A collaboration with French artist Malika Favre will drop in the new year.
AoPP x Malika Favre ArtBat (front), £49 (available in 2024)
AoPP x Malika Favre ArtBat (back), £49 (available in 2024)
In 2012, Batten held the first of many exhibitions and charity auctions of one-off bats and tables decorated by artists and illustrators. AoPP has since raised more than £35,000 for charitable causes, most recently £6,000 for Choose Love and the Civic Centre in Barnsley, with works by the likes of Jeremy Deller and Gavin Turk. One of those early auctioned tables, illustrated by Mr Doodle (who then had 70,000 followers on Instagram; now it’s 2.9mn), was bought by a private client and was last seen heading to the US. One of the two bats he illustrated sold in 2021 at Sotheby’s Hong Kong for HK$88,200 (about £8,800); it originally sold for £400. “I love that discovery of artists before they really hit the big time,” says Batten.
Investment value aside, when friends come round and dinner is over, who can put a price on an excellent party trick? Just whip your artwork off the wall, unfold the legs, pop on the net and get stuck into a raucous round of doubles. Yayoi Kusama bats? The cherry on top.