While London plays host to the Olympics and the Paralympics this summer, the city’s Tate Britain art museum is giving a glimpse into how contemporary British artists have interpreted the pageantry through commemorative posters.
Olympic and Paralympic Games posters”, on
display in the hall beside the museum’s main gift shop through 23 September,
showcases the officially commissioned designs of a dozen leading British
artists, including Tracey Emin, Chris Ofili and Rachel
Whiteread. The exhibition is a small part of the London 2012 cultural festival.
The screen prints and lithographs pay homage to the
quadrennial, larger-than-life, superhero-like athletic competitions, but they also
aim to transcend mere event promotion to achieve artistic status. The
illustrations tend to be abstract, such as Whiteread’s set of Olympic rings
interlocking in surprising combinations and Ofilli’s invocation of an ancient
Greek runner portrayed on an antique vase.
Host cities have long traditions of commissioning
commemorative posters -- since 1912 for the Olympics and 1948 for the
Paralympics. Admirers of graphic design will
be impressed by the technical skill of this latest batch of artworks, which not
only promote the Games but could also become relics themselves.
In the main Tate Britain gallery gift shop, limited
edition prints of the posters are for sale (£7 each). So far, the most
purchased poster is a sketch by Tracey Emin that features two birds kissing and
is aimed to promote the spirit of goodwill behind the Paralympics.
Not on display at the Tate but selling well at the
gift shops in the Victoria and Albert Museum
and the National Transport
Museum, as well as at John Lewis
department stores (the official retailer for the Games) is a vintage
one-sheet from 1948, when London last hosted the Olympics.
It spotlights a statue of an ancient Greek discus thrower, superimposed upon
the Houses of Parliament.