45 numbered color tiles with colours facing down

Color Match Game, as a tournament event really hit its stride in 2004 with competitive games at Scope Art Fairs in New York, Los Angeles and Miami that year. In New York, the lobby of Hotel Gansevoort was the day venue. Scope exhibitor, Christopher Cutts hosted the more informal matches in his hotel room after the show closed for the night. Exhibiting artist Mark Karasick came by with critic Linda Nochlin. Out of the 18 games played that weekend, Nochlin’s game with Jill Shellhorn placed a close second to Praxis artist-duo tournament winners Delia Bajo and Brained Carey.

A total of 49 matches were played at the Standard in Los Angeles, May 2004. As an exhibitor at the fair this time, rather than a performance component, the games were more widely available to fair attendees this time out. It was here that color prints of the New York Color Match games were displayed for the first time, and viewers were able to cast ballots for their favorites. With some 200 votes cast, it was here that the New York Gansevoort tournament winners were determined.

The Color Match tournaments had their international launch in 1999 at Art Omi artist residency in Upstate New York. I was able to present an Aesthetic Olympics drawn from 24 artist players from around the world. Since then, Color Match games have been hosted in New York City, Los Angeles, Miami Beach, and Toronto. Recent tournaments were held at Toronto City Hall in conjuction with Janet Bellotto’s 2006 Nature in the Garage project, and at Toronto Nuit Blanche, under the direction of York University Gallery Assistant Curator Emelie Chhungur. In December 2006, dArt International magazine sponsored a Color Match© Tournament during the Miami art fairs.

When the Color Match games were performed at Toronto City Hall, they were played beside Noboru Tsubaki’s UN Shop, one of the exhibits in Janet Bellotto’s Nature in the Garage project. The playful, interactive aspect of Color Match, which crosses language and cultural barriers might lend a positive energy if performed at the upcoming DIFC Gulf Art Fair. A Color Match tournament can be designed to fit a specific location or booth with possibly an online broadcast component, or done as a roving, mobile performance where game data is posted on the web at a later time.

Color Match Game: A history

The very first Color Match Game was played in December 1987. Since then it has continued to evolve over the decades – becoming competitive in 1999, and made available as a limited art multiple in 2020. The colours themselves, having employed standardized matching systems in the beginning, to the uniquely painted pigmentation in use today. The games themselves have been in diverse venues in Canada and the United States – the art fair having provided popular arena to this aesthetic game of strategy.

Past Color Match Games

Two players decide who goes first, generally the challenger. To play, each player selects seven colours from a store of 45 tiles. Starting player places the color of choice from the seven anywhere on the grid of nine empty squares. Second player responds with their color, placing it on any on any available space on the grid. Players continue until board is filled. Earlier Color Match games allowed players a choice of ten color tiles from a store of 100.

The above Color Match game between Janis Demkin and Micah Lexier was one of twelve games played at a Drake Hotel tournament on March 26, 2009. The 100 colors employed at this time were standard digital hues drawn from a color matching system. In the same tournament below is the game played between Nancy Parke-Taylor and Earl Miller.

Color Match game played between Nancy Parke-Taylor and Earl Miller at the Drake Hotel in Toronto
Color Match Game played between Richard Heller and Steve Rockwell in Los Angeles in 1999
Color Match game played between Tim Blum and Steve Rockwell at Blum & Poe Gallery in Los Angeles on July 23, 1999
Color Match game played between Jeff Poe and Steve Rockwell at Blum & Poe Gallery in Los Angeles on July 23, 1999
Color Match Game played between Jaan Poldaas and Paul Sannella at Cameron House in Toronto in March, 1999

Invitation to Play

The 2019-2022 Color Match Game Tournament

For the first time since its creation, the Color Match Game is being played as a framed work of art. Since its launch in September 2019, Steve Rockwell’s Color Match Game has surpassed 50 matches. Paricipating players from Toronto art galleries include, Robert Birch, Christopher Cutts, Robert Kananaj, Rafi Ghanaghounian, YM Whelan, and Olga Korper’s …


To play Color Match contact: steve@dartmagazine.com