Wilt Chamberlain, who was so good on a basketball court the NBA had to widen the free-throw lane in order to keep him back from the net, wrote two autobiographies. The first, from 1973, Wilt: Just Like Any Other 7-Foot Black Millionaire Who Lives Next Door, boasts of certain sexual extravagances. The second, 1991’s A View From Above, is more specific; it includes the famous unverified statement that the number of Chamberlain’s sexual encounters was “closing in on twenty thousand women,” a claim that adds a certain layer of subtext to his on-the-court nickname, the Big Dipper. He presents this lofty figure in the manner of a basketball statistic. “Yes that’s correct, twenty thousand different ladies. At my age, that equals out to having sex with 1.2 women a day, every day since I was fifteen years old.” Chamberlain, by the way, still holds the record for most rebounds for a career—the fairly coincidental figure of 23,924.
The artist Paul Pfeiffer, whose debut show at the Paula Cooper Gallery opened last week, is known for his clever manipulation of sports footage. Basketball is a recurring interest. It feels almost inevitable that he should have chosen Chamberlain as his muse for his first exhibition in New York since 2007.