Sunday, 19 August 2012

Paralympic Countdown

Following up on my piece about Andy Warhol’s Olympic paintings this post deals with other lgbt artists who have contributed to the games. As I mentioned then, the Olympics had competitions for various artistic works as well as sport.

2012 is the centenary year of the fist of these competitions, and until 1948 when the Olympics were last held in London medals were given in architecture, town planning design, sculpture, graphics, drawings/watercolours, painting, literature, drama and music. All entries had to have a sporting theme of course – the architecture and town planning section consisted mainly of sports stadiums and sports complexes and parks. This in particular is a bone of contention at the moment between the IOC and the architects of the London 2012 sports venues. Ironically (or should that be hypocritically) all architects of venues like the athletics stadium and the velodrome are banned from publicising their work before, during or after the games until the end of this year. In the past the architects got Olympic medals, now they get Olympic bans. And yet the designers of the cauldron and torches get constant publicity. Yes, I think “hypocritically” is the word I should use instead of “ironically”.

None of the winners of the various art competitions have been identified as members of the lgbt community, and many of the individuals, being amateurs, left no other mark on history and have vanished into anonymity.

Strange as it may seem the only lgbt contribution to the artistic contests seems to be among the judges. The most only one identified so far is Selma Lagerlöf, the first female winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature who, presumably, judges the literature contests.

In more recent decades the IOC has used art to promote the Olympics. This has best been seen in exhibitions and posters. As well as Andy Warhol’s 1984 poster mentioned last time, another important openly gay pop artist contributed to the 1972 Munich Olympics poster portfolio.

As with Warhol, the only criteria on the art was that it should be centred on sport, and the 1972 Olympics were the first to feature pop artists of the time. David Hockney’s poster is shown here (right). This poster featured in an exhibition at the Tyne and Wear museum earlier this year alongside others from the 1972 games.

Hockney is part of the London 2012 Cultural Olympiad. An exhibition of his landscapes, called “David Hockney: A Bigger Picture”, was shown as the Royal Academy of Arts in the first months of the year.

Among the artists creating new posters for 2012 was Sir Howard Hodgkin. Having been showered with honours and awards for his work Sir Howard can be regarded as the Grand Old Man of British Art. For his Olympic poster Sir Howard has produced a work (pictured below) which goes well with Hockney’s diving poster. Sir Howard chose swimming as his subject and used his brushstrokes to mark the strokes of a swimmer through water.

Art doesn’t need to be static. An example of the heights, literally, that one gay artist has reached at these Olympics comes in the person of Pascal Anson. When the Olympic flame arrived on British soil from Greece it was carried in a British Airways plane painted in Pascal’s special London 2012 gold design. It was also painted on 8 other planes. When athletes and visitors arrived in the UK for the Olympics many of them would have arrived on one of Pascal’s gold planes.

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