Opinion: the 2012 Olympics artists posters

The 2012 Olympics artists’ posters come from a fine tradition of involving the visual arts in the Games, but they have left designers and illustrators feeling further frustrated and excluded

‘My three year-old could’ve done that’: Pierre Soulages’ poster for Munich 1972 (left) and Howard Hodgkin’s poster for the London 2012 Olympics (right)

The 2012 Olympics artists’ posters come from a fine tradition of involving the visual arts in the Games, but they have left designers and illustrators feeling further frustrated and excluded

First, some context. For the 1972 Games (for many designers the ultimate Olympics for visual expression) the organising committee decided to produce a series of posters to “represent the intertwining of sports and art worldwide”. This Artists series was to be in addition to the more functional Sports and Culture poster series produced under the direction of Otl Aicher’s team. In collaboration with a publisher, 28 artists produced images for the series which were turned into posters for sale. The series was successful, generating over 2m Deutschmarks for the Organising Committee (more here).

Munich poster by Horst Antes

The London 2012 posters are attempting to revive this “artistic tradition”, a decision for which LOCOG should be applauded, but this context hasn’t been made very clear. Commenter simondk summarised the issue on our post announcing the posters “Perhaps the problem here is the description of these as ‘Posters’. If they had been titled as ‘Prints’ taken from works of art inspired by the Olympics and Paralympics, then I suspect they could be seen for what they are – a series of individual creative responses to the events with no purpose other than to communicate that artist’s emotional response, and perhaps then be criticised on the basis of their artistic merit.
 By calling them Posters, the Olympic Organising Committee puts them into a more commercial arena in my mind, where some of those parameters we are all familiar with come into play – communication objectives, visual messaging and an understanding of the audience to name but a few – and to my mind, it is here where these fail. I can admire and respect them as works of art, but I cannot see how they work as posters for the Olympics.”

The artists were given a brief which “encouraged them to celebrate the Games coming to London and to look at the values of the Olympic or Paralympic Games”. The responses are just as varied and at times obtuse as those of the Munich artists. What, for example, would today’s blog commenters have made of Hans Hartung’s 1972 response (above)?

Or that of Serge Poliakoff?

Max Bill?

Josef Albers?

Do they represent Munich? Do they directly depict Olympic events? No, because they weren’t asked to. There were other posters for that purpose.



And it wasn’t just for the Munich games that artists were encouraged to produce imagery. Over the past three years the Century of Olympic Posters exhibition has been touring the UK providing further examples of the sometime controversial intersection of art and sport. Here, for example, is Per Arnoldi’s poster for the 1996 Paralympics – anyone else find the misshapen rings a clumsily offensive metaphor for the disabled athletes?


And what about this poster for the Montreal games? Does it say ‘Montreal’ to you? Or Yong Seung-Choon’s spectacular Seoul poster?

(Have a look here for a complete list of the posters featured in the exhibition)


In commissioning contemporary artists to respond to the upcoming games, LOCOG has continued a tradition of longstanding: the eclectic nature of the responses and their varied quality are an inevitable part of that tradition. It’s just the way projects of this nature work: there will be good work, bad work and indiffererent work.

Amongst the design community there has been the suggestion that, had designers and illustrators been invited to respond to the same brief, the resulting images would have been a significant improvement on the artists’ efforts. I’m not sure there is much evidence of that. And I’m sure that had, say Peter Saville or Neville Brody been invited to design a poster commenters on here would have been queueing up to tear their work apart.

In my experience, designers and illustrators work best when responding to a tight brief or solving a visual problem. Give them as open a brief as the 2012 artists had and the results will be just as mixed. Don’t believe me? Have a look at the response to the Designers for Japan effort or LDF’s London Posters show.

Looking at the 2012 posters I can see some direct parallels with design poster projects I have been involved in. You have the works that virtually ignore the brief and just quote from existing practice (you might say Bridget Riley falls into this trap in the Olympics series).


The works that are more about the artist/designer themselves than the project theme (Tracey Emin).


And those that cause you to think, ‘no, sorry, I have no idea where this is coming from’ (Gary Hume?)

Out of every dozen or so, there will perhaps be two or three standouts – no more. In terms of the Olympics posters, those standouts for me would be Sarah Morris’s re-imagining of Big Ben,

Martin Creed’s riff on the winner’s podium

and Howard Hodgkin’s joyous Swimming.


But that’s an entirely subjective choice, as any response to this project will surely be.

Where I think the frustration for our readership comes in is that this is a high profile visual Olympics-related project from which they have been excluded. And one to which they feel eminently suited.

This comes on top of widespread disappointment (outrage even) over the logo, typeface and mascots, followed by the incredibly dreary ticketing advertising campaign. Our readership is itching to get involved in producing work for the Olympics that, in their eyes, will show off the best of what UK visual communications has to offer. Will they get the chance?

There is a whole raft of 2012 visual material to come but LOCOG has so far inspired little confidence that it possesses the ability to buy work that will blow us all away (the single ray of hope having been provided by Von’s Paralympic posters for McCann). It’s not been for a lack of trying from those involved. Sources close to 2012 have told CR about numerous projects involving leading designers and illustrators that were kyboshed by the client in favour of banal alternatives. Perhaps the problem dates back to the logo: LOCOG was brave to buy that piece of work, whatever you think of it aesthetically. And look where it got them. The fear is that, following the outcry over these artists’ posters, on top of that surrounding the logo, a mixture of fear of adverse public reaction and a lack of clear creative direction will result in an already timorous LOCOG shying away from anything the least bit adventurous in future.

Instead of providing a vehicle to celebrate our creative industries, there is a very real danger that the 2012 Games will forever be remembered by the visual communications community as a missed opportunity of truly Olympian proportions.

Related content
See our original post on the Olympics posters here


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  • Locksmith & Wander

    Good to know that the Olympics have a long history of commissioning (mostly) terrible art, makes the London Olympics design fiasco a bit easier to bear.

  • John Barlow

    I am disgusted. Why should we be subvjected this trash, giving glory to egoistical artists and boosting their egos, when we should glorifying this massively important sporting event and glamorising tthe sporting talent.
    Thge pretentous nonsense giv en out by the artistic committe whpo selected this rubbish displayed no understanding of sport, its participants or the event itself. For a country which is famous and highky respected for its pageantry, this is a disaster.

  • Terry Aslett

    I appreciate that the British reputation abroad is not held in the greatest esteem,but I do feel that if we go ahead with the (so called) Olympic posters we will be a laughing stock. Is there anything that we (the people who through tax payments fund these apparent works of art) can do to bring a change of direction, or is this already a done deal?

  • Michael

    Commenters: have you ever made art? What could the world be like if you did? Let them paint, whatever they wish.

  • Mark

    I blame it all on Paul Rand. Only exception is Yong Seung-Choon’s work.

  • Abi

    I really like Serge Poliakoff’s piece. The problem I have with the British pieces is that I do not find the majority of them visually engaging. Even viewing these pieces as artist prints which were created in response to the Olympics, I would prefer to see images which were a little more interesting or accessible or which had a little more to say.

    Sarah Morris’ image caught my attention the most and is the one I gave most thought to, but some of the others I find quite unsatisfying, whether seen as posters or as prints.

    It’s interesting to note the difference between this brief and a more typical kind of design brief; the pieces that work best are the ones which appear to have responded in some way to the brief. The Bridget Riley print and the piece by Gary Hulme are so far removed from the aim of this project that they lack any kind of interest for me at all. I’m not keen on Howard Hodgkin’s piece personally, but I like how it relates to the brief.

  • Josh

    “Where I think the frustration for our readership comes in is that this is a high profile visual Olympics-related project from which they have been excluded.”

    No, it’s a high-COST project that we the tax-payers will ultimately foot the bill for; not only paying the fees of the pretentious ‘artists’ (whose ‘art’ leaves most normal people shaking their heads in despair) but also the huge fees involved in plastering these things on hoardings around the UK.

    In this age of austerity we should be making every pound count, but these posters (not withstanding the arty-farty bollocks used to try and persuade us of their awesomeness) don’t look like they’ll be very effective at all. It’ll be nothing short of a miracle if someone looks at one of these and actually feels compelled to attend the games.

    But then what do I know? I’m ‘only’ a designer, not an artist…

  • Gavin

    As visual images, some of the posters are quite striking, such as Hodgkin’s Swimming, although as artworks on their own none of them are overly engaging.

    It is when you read the organiser’s attempts to give the works meaning to try to tie them into the olympics – for instance, Hume’s work is alleged to represent a wheelchair wheel and a tennis ball (WTF) – that you realise how misguided the whole exercise is, and that it seems a ‘must do’ function rather than something with any thought or meaning. This does seem to come through in the attitude of the artists to the project.

    Anyone who caught the BBC ‘2012’ sitcom could probably have seen this coming…

  • PatrickBurgoyne

    @ Josh

    They’re not going to be plastered on hoardings as far as I know. Neither is their function to make people feel ‘compelled to attend the games’. All the tickets have long since gone, so there wouldn’t be much point in such a campaign now: that’s what the ticketing ads were for. As for their cost, the Munich posters made a huge profit for the organisers through sales. Presumably, that is the hope for this set too.

  • Great post Patrick: Historical overview, analysis, and critical evaluation of the present. You’ve put into words and clarified much of what I have been thinking but was unable to articulate. The taxonomy of poster competitions and the variables that can occur within it is a useful one (It would be interesting to see if this was a pattern that occurred elsewhere). In particularly I liked the way you made a link between the disparaging commentary regarding the 2012 identity and the impact this may have had on LOCOG’s confidence.

  • Da Croders

    I think these selection of images are fine, but I think Howard Hodgkins Swimming is beautifully simple, A great way to show movement in water, without showing a person in a swimming pool looking pleased for himself.

  • miles

    When they didn’t choose my design I knew they were fucked!

  • Tracey Emin’s predictable self absorbed offering, (what a surprise, it’s not about the athletes it’s about her. Again. ) typifies how poor an offering these posters are. The whole lot, with the barely tangible exception of Bridget Riley and Sarah Morris’s offerings, (although I have no bloody idea what the Olympic connection is in either) are pretty rubbish.

    Some time ago, Alan Clarke, (a designer who I don’t know, but who I stumbled across on the internet) created some concept posters for the 2012 games which are about a million times better than any of the posters on offer, (http://ministryoftype.co.uk/words/article/an_olympic_poster_proposal).

    Personally, I think it’s an absolute scandal that, rather than use some of the brilliant design talent that we have in this country, the Olympic Organising Committee decided to use headline grabbing people like Emin who’s sole contribution to the exercise has been to scrawl that she loves athletes and to badly draw a couple of birds (WTF?).

    When you compare the efforts of this bunch of ‘artists’ to Alan Clarke’s concepts, or to Olympic posters from the past, (http://ifitshipitshere.blogspot.com/2008/08/all-olympic-posters-throught-history.html) there really is no comparison.

    Having said all this, it’s not worth getting too upset. I mean, this is the same group of people, presumably, who thought that £400,000 for Wolff Olins offering was a money well spent. I mean what did we really expect?

  • very disappointing choices and such an important show casing event for us in the UK…

  • PatrickBurgoyne

    @ Michael Preston

    That link is to official Olympics posters, not artists’ series like this one: they are two different things. We haven’t seen the official London poster yet to the best of my knowledge.
    As for the Alan Clarke series, that would be the equivalent of the Munich Sports series, not the Artists series. Presumably there will also be a London Sports series in due course but the works from Emin et al are not fro that purpose.
    Far be it from me to accuse LOCOG of cynicism (ahem) but if they’d looked at the Munich series and thought ‘we can make a bit of cash here’ what would be the better bet revenue-wise – an unknown designer or internationally famous artists with their own very powerful brands? Which would shift more posters?

    Do you mean for a poster or did you do a logo proposal for Wolff Olins? If the latter, I don’t suppose you’re allowed to share it with us by any chance?

  • Alan

    My view for what its worth is that some of the art works are lazy. If you give free rain to some of the biggest box office office artists in the world the quality of outcome is going to be variable.
    Some of the works are clever and engaging and I suspect those of us who like Howard Hodgkin will like his response, while those that like Tracy Emin will defend her work. Bridget Riley is Bridget Riley what else do we expect!
    The commissioning group have a responsibility to make sure that they provide challenge to the artists they are commissioning.
    Thanks for putting up the other works from previous games

  • Josh

    @Patrick —

    In Emin’s BBC interview* she states that, “these posters are going to be all across London, all across the UK, on the Tubes, on the buses, everywhere…” so it sounds like they really are going to be seen on billboards.

    Good point about the tickets already being sold, though in my mind that just makes it more absurd to pay for them to be displayed in public. If the Olympic committee just pays the ‘artists’ and then sells prints, I’d imagine that breaking even wouldn’t be too difficult. If the huge price tag that prominent ad space commands is added to that equation, they’ll need to sell a heck of a lot of prints…

    * http://bbc.in/rMi1L0

  • PatrickBurgoyne

    @ Josh
    In which case, I stand corrected – thanks for the link. I would point out though that the media company CBS Outdoor is listed as a 2012 Tier Three Supplier and Provider ie sponsor, therefore I imagine most, if not all, of that ad space will be provided for free. Also the Head of Art on the Underground was on the selection panel so I imagine the posters will run under the auspices of that scheme on the Tube – again, free space effectively.

  • Rob

    Tell you what, I LOVE all of these posters.
    Fuck the age of austerity.
    Fuck the miserable twats.
    I want more LIFE, fucker.
    (Sorry for swearing)

    But seriously, come on, what’s the problem?
    Loosen up, kids.

  • Barry Greenberg

    Was there a requirement in the brief that the artwork be conceived and executed in less than 30 minutes. Only given that criteria would lend sense to this exercise.

  • Harold Hodgkin’s work is absolutely brilliant!

  • I find it difficult to reconcile the intent behind hodgkin’s work with any real depth of meaning. It is not so much abstract, but overly simplistic- it doesn’t challenge the viewer and I suspect that this will only reinforce the UK’s stereotypically esoteric nature abroad. Contrary to other’s comments, I find Emin’s work to capture the growing sense of pride shared by people across the country, which is rare thing by all accounts.

  • Professor Lynda Morris

    The Olympic Posters

    Dealer Gallery Analysis

    Frith Street Fiona Banner
    Gargosian Michael Craig Martin
    Gargosian Howard Hodgkin
    Gargosian Rachel Whiteread
    Hales Gallery Bob & Roberta Smith
    Hauser & Wirth Martin Creed
    Ibid Projects Anthea Hamilton
    Karsten Schubert Bridget Riley
    Victoria Miro Chris Ofili
    White Cube Tracey Emin
    White Cube Gary Hume
    White Cube Sarah Morris

    Chairman of the selection committee: Sir Nicholas Serota.

    Who else was on the Selection Committee?
    Who selected the selectors?

  • PatrickBurgoyne

    @ Professor Morris

    In addition to Serota, the panel comprised:
    Tamsin Dillon, head of Art on the Underground
    Judith Nesbitt, Tate head of national. international initiatives
    Carl Freedman, Counter Editions
    Ruth Mackenzie, director of the Cultural Olympiad
    Greg Nugent, LOCOG director of brand and marketing

    Apparently, Tate and Tate Group (described as a group of 19 regional galleries across the UK) together compiled a long list of 100 artists for consideration. The final 12 artists were chosen by the panel.

    Who chose the panel? I don’t know

  • Winston Smith

    These posters are just signs of the times and sum up London culture perfectly – bankers getting rich on snake oil, politicians getting rich on corporate sponsorship, artists getting rich on pseudo intellectual bollocks and self promotion. All part of the same establishment, no substance, no value, no connection with reality and all totally without any intrinsic value.

  • I really admire the Olympic Games posters in particular the Munich and some of the London ones. The Modern Olympics were not originally the domain of sport but also a vehicle to promote Art & Culture. In the advent of the games London will be in spot light and this must be taken advantage of and these posters certainly do the job, London should be proud.

    Also anyone know if you can get T-shirts of the Munich and London posters?

  • OperaNorth

    Awful, awful work.

  • ben

    Why doesn’t creative review do an unofficial version?

  • Winston Smith

    “Also anyone know if you can get T-shirts of the Munich and London posters?”

    Nope, but it’ll only take you a couple of minutes to make your own

  • Tobias H.

    Truly inspiring. Today’s overtly-conservative design/ad industry could learn a lot from these.

  • The examples from Morris, Creed and Hodgkin are good responses in my humble opinion in that they do tell a story and illustrate a level of craft and thought.

    I do dread to think what has been spent on these and maybe a Blue Peter -esque competition open to all might have given similar results and engaged more of the nation.

  • Winston Smith

    “Also anyone know if you can get T-shirts of the Munich and London posters?”

    Nope, but it’ll only take you a couple of minutes to make your own

  • @Partick
    the logo, & only offline.

  • I don’t feel any emotion connecting these posters to the spirit and sport of the Olympics…

    Sad, really

  • Erica Sciolti

    Who benefits from the revenues generated by the sale of posters (including the limited edition ones on the Counter website)?

  • “Instead of providing a vehicle to celebrate our creative industries, there is a very real danger that the 2012 Games will forever be remembered by the visual communications community as a missed opportunity of truly Olympian proportions.”

    That may be a bit dramatic. I can’t remember a recent major sporting event when someone didn’t have a massive problem with the logo or some other part of the visual commucation. 2010 FIFA, anyone? 2006 FIFA, anyone? And yet the world doesn’t end, and the logo or mascot or whatever else makes lots and lots of money by appearing on T-shirts and the like. So yes, maybe some of it is ugly for the creative community at large, but one has to ask, do most people really care, and does it make any actual difference?

  • Tom

    The worst collection of art I’ve ever seen. Yet another shambles for London 2012.

    The Only one I like and would call art is Sarah Morris’ Big Ben, which if there were a series by the same artist you could image it becoming iconic and somewhat enjoyable.

    Who in their right mind would buy any of these ‘pieces’? I don’t think it’s unfair of me to say a group of primary school kids could have achieved better results.

    Overall… crap

  • louis della-Porta

    Instead of wingeing how awful it all is, let’s see what all you ‘creatives’ can do.
    Come put you money where you mouth is – let’s see your posters……

  • Rick

    I love them. They aren’t commercials for “sport”. They engage me.
    Re the “school kids could have done better” comment: No, they couldn’t.

  • Lee

    As works of art these can be appreciated to an extent. This selection of both artist and produced work is good. And let’s be honest no british graphic designer, with maybe the exception of peter saville’s and his exposure thanks to that england shirt, is know to the public. Artists have a greater celebrity status and have more kudos than us poor designers. So it makes more financial sense for them to do them.

    Unfortunately I don’t think UK designers will get to design Olympic posters, officially anyway. McCann Erickson/Futurebrand are design slaves/Tier 3 provider so all work is being done by them for free.

    An unofficial Designers set a la Grafik’s design festival set last year could work. Although most of those were rather dry, obvious representations of the sports. They did a job, but something like that would be great but I doubt will ever become official sadly.

  • Ced

    This is great actually!
    It proves that to make a good poster you should hire a graphic designer.
    People love designers posters :)

  • Andrew stephenson

    Debate over art and an event that is in place to celebrate humanity is always a good thing. However, it’s funny how we are having the same debates and the centuries before.

  • There’s a letter in the Guardian today pointing out that although this is supposed to be the most incusive games ever, none of the artists used have a disability. Another missed opportunity.

  • I agree with Patrick. These posters only represent contemporary artists’ takes on the Olympicmythos. They are not used for promotion and are not part of the marketing stratgey of the event. It’s just a tradition that I find both touching and smart. And frankly, I’d better hang on my wall these posters than the promotional material we’ve seen for the last few Olympics…

  • David

    No substance whatever. This could have been an opportunity to create something special, yet these artists have come together to create a collection of posters which represent and promote themselves rather than promote any sense of sport. I love some of these artists works individually, so don’t get me wrong, but as a collection of ‘olympic posters’ these are below par and look like no effort has been put into the works at all.

    I agree with some comments suggesting a competition should have been held – I would have loved a series of posters designed by school kids, who I know would create colourful works full of excitement and passion.

  • Mirrors

    Some of the posters are great. Simple and striking. Most of all they have balls, which seems to upset people. Now that’s what I call art.

  • As an artist, I feel the posters would be more powerful and have more integrity if they were created by the athletes (UK or international) taking part themselves, rather than the same artists that pop up time and time again and saturate the media. Perhaps, how an athlete visually perceives their anguish or pride, or the emotions felt by an athlete in the paralympics could go a lot further to making the viewer feel more ingaged or even compelled to understand the athletes who are the real stars of the show at the end of the day!

    But I guess the art world is a close-knit group that looks after themselves first and foremost.

  • Benedict

    Why do some people insist on using apostrophes when they use the words ‘artist’ and ‘art’ that they don’t like/understand?
    I personally think these are great. Admittedly, there are some I don’t like so much, but that doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate them. Howard Hodgkin’s is particularly brilliant.
    I would have expected more from the visual community, to be honest.

  • Robert

    Yet again London 2012 has let the side down what a load of TOSH.
    As has been said a competition to find some posters depicting what the general public feel the Games mean to them would have been more appropriate.I though was the idea of getting the public involved in the games as all the tickets went like hot cakes, I for one would have liked an oppertunity to come up with a design.

  • Rob

    I really wish the CR would stop trying to justify these posters.
    They should be one the side of the 99% not the 1%. Poor show CR.

  • I quite like some of them but why Tracey Emin? Should she really be representing the UK? The words, binge drinking, filth and depravity spring to mind

  • Claire

    Another missed opportunity. Even Olympic posters now have to be linked to celebrities.

    I’m bored senseless.

    They’re doing such a good job at making the Olympics LOOK bad, that I’m starting to think it wasn’t such a bad thing I couldn’t get any tickets in the big ticket mayhem.

    Fiasco seems to be the password here…

  • I contacted the cultural olympiad + olympic comittee about doing an alternative version to these posters using Graphic Designers via Blanka, I even spoke to Creative Review and Design Museum who both supported my proposal and agreed if it went ahead we would all work together as a joint collaboration to put it together and promote the design industry [which the cultural olympiad are entirely ignoring]. This was over 4 months ago and nobody at the Olympics has got back to me about it. I can see now why the Olympics is run as an amateur status.

  • I love the dynamism and movement of Hodgkin’s poster design. It is very physical and speaks of water and repetitive motion. I would live with this in my home, with no difficulty.

  • as an artist, this is not art and actually angers me a little that it would have been chosen overs from the excellent contribution to art that Britain has.

  • everything is shit.
    except for me – I’m brilliant. and I should be in charge.
    of everything.

  • the problem with art (not that it’s a problem) is that it is subjective, and because of that it doesn’t work in the same way as design. you can’t ask martin creed to create a poster and then when he does, turn around and say, “we’ve had a look at it with our committee and there’s a few changes…”. you assume that because these artists have made a respectable name for themselves and are fairly well known, at least some people are going to like them.

    i like some of these prints, or posters, and some i think of as pretentious crap, but that’s how i feel looking through a lot of contemporary galleries. that’s the way art art works for me. you can’t like it all!

  • Marcus

    Good article, Patrick. The posters by artists for the Olymoics have always been a designer’s nightmare, even in Munich. Which is not the fault of the artists but of a flawed concept. In Munich the posters were an additional feature meant to finance the games. What you really saw in the public were the stunning posters by Aicher and his team. I guess what most people miss is something with that quality. If the overall identity was any good no designer would bother.

  • Would be interesting to put our selection of poster images, without the headline/logos, in front of an audience and see if they knew what they were for?

  • Tim

    Will somebody please have the balls to stand up and tell the Emperor his new clothes don’t exist.

  • Mike Laye

    @gareth – Could it be any worse if you were?

  • Ambient Creative

    blah blah blah

    its Art… some you’ll like, some you’ll hate, no matter what the event or justification or purpose.

    Some people seem to take themselves a tad too seriously on here.

    Personally, I love the Riley and Hodgkin’s ones.. the rest I’m not bothered about.

    There are a great number of more important issues I would get worked up about before these even entered the frame.

  • This is why ‘proper fine artists’ shouldn’t be allowed near heavy machinery. I can’t believe this utter rubbish. It is an insult to all the really great ‘communicators’ out there. Please can we just accept that ‘ART’ doesn’t cut it anymore. The world has moved on.

  • Chris

    Not a fan at all.

  • Chris

    If you hate them that much get together and make your own OLYMPIC posters and paste them up all over the capital. Or sell them.

    I’m not actually telling people to commit a crime, I was being facetious (thats my disclaimer).

  • David from Swansea

    I don’t understand why we put up with tripe like this… I’m sure it’s so those on the fringe of art can express a view on the subject matter which no one can disagree with.

    It’s bilge and I sense most agree……

    up there with many of the “shock” style so called “artists”, yes a scruffy un-made bed… hmmm lets call that art?

    Actually NO, looking back at the image I can see power and emotion… No, it’s determination, strength…. the winning line…..

    No, No, No… I see it now…. it’s pants.

  • It is true that there has always been a tradition of ‘artists’ creating images for Olympic posters. Nothing wrong with that. But they would normally compliment a series produced by ‘graphic designers’.

    Where are the graphic designers in this instance?

  • Tony McSweeney

    Very, very poor work.

  • Longplaya – good comment – I couldn’t agree more.

    Some of the posters are OK – but Tracey Emin’s? – vacuous rubbish

  • Emeka

    I prefer the ones ‘I Wasn’t Even There’ suggested for Emin when she was first announced http://iwasnteventhere.tumblr.com/post/8082004691/you-were-always-on-the-brandwagon-tracey

  • @Mike Laye
    it could be so much worse – we could be using “professional” designers for everything!

  • These are sadly very stinky. Such a missed opportunity for some great, iconic designs. Imagine the delightful responses that could have come from folk like the NoBrow illustrators etc. If only they’d bothered to try and commission the Best rather than the Biggest.

    They could have at least got our finest living British fine artist Grayson Perry to do one!

  • It’s all part of the post-modern art & design con games.

  • Karen

    I have one of the Munich Olympic Posters. It still hangs in my office. I was attracted to the series in the mid 70s while a student of design.

    Several issues make this particular series important to me. A concept which blends art and sports under an organization that was founded to build bridges among the peoples of the world. Not only known artists were chosen but emerging artists, as well. An established format, with typographic design, links the various styles of art into a consistent series. If I understand correctly, the purpose of these posters was fundraising for the games and it was a successful program in this sense.

    If we are still discussing these posters many decades later, and they may be bought at major galleries, is it fair to say that the concept was solid and the program successful?

    Lastly, my design work has been published for excellence. I think I made a great decision as a young designer in the late 70s long before anyone thought I would have anything published.


  • I just keep wondering, WWPHD?

    (That of course is What Would Pentagram Have Done?)

    To me, they are a strong visual (originally British) voice that always seemed to be combining art, strong visual messaging in a very clever and engaging fashion. But maybe I’m too old school, only a part-time artist, and just full-time “professional” designer with too much time on my hands.

    It will be what it will be, and it will create much more interesting blog fodder along the way.

  • grannytaughtmetoshootncuss

    The playful artistic style used to create posters for the 2012 Olympics, misses entirely the super hyper-technology age that the world of Olympics and its athletes exist in. Many don’t reflect anything specific but a broad sweeping expression of, say, inspiration. I doubt any athlete could claim any of these 2012 posters represent them or their inspiration to compete. I wonder if any one Olympic athlete was ever consulted on anything by the designers or agencies.

  • peter bessey

    Why follow the already failed tradition of commissioning artists’ work for posters.

    A poster to promote the Olympics, should be able to communicate that objective to the public.

    But the public’s understanding of many contemporary artists is at best, minimal and often just plain zilch!

    As a group, one could say that communication with the public is definitely not one of their strong points.

    So why-oh-why do these self-appointed celebrities and civil servant types running the Olympic organisations continue to foist this stuff on us all. And what is worse, why do they believe that they should use our tax and rate payments to do so?

    None of these offerings would appear to visualise or relate the grand words and stated objectives used to gain this Olympics for London, to or for the population – surely something that could have been acheived? In fact many of those objectives seem to have been lost en-route so far.

    Yet we are the ones having to pay for it all and at a time of great hardship to most, while various questionable VIPs prepare for their turn at the trough.

    Is that to be the ‘Legacy’?
    Is this the true lowly level of vision in the minds of the organisers?
    Is this the result of allowing a sports star-turned-politician and his cronies loose with our cash?

    Whether the events turn out successfully or not, it is sad that the preparations will leave a bad taste.

  • This “swimming” painting is a simple graphic which is good. It touches on the philosophic heart of olympic sport which is the simple love of the physical sport itself. However, the execution of the painting is slightly naive in that it does not feel mature enough.

  • Léa

    What made this ‘poster’ become so controversial?!
    Isn’t art, design, illustration understood in different ways by different people. Are taste and choices not different depending on the subject, the target and the viewers.
    Why some people suddenly find a voice toward this piece of work when I saw a Table with coffee marks win a £6000 price. Why nobody had anything to say against this at the time?!

    Art is subjective by definition.
    Opinions are free to be said and heard.
    I personally dislike the piece proposed for the Olympics poster but this is my opinion.
    I think that it lacks of style and is not particularly interesting to look at. I also agree with the word ‘lazy’ used above and understand people concerns about becoming a laughing stock but I can accept that some people will absolutely love the piece.

    As an Art student I also wanted to say that I doubt -even if they had been consulted- that any of the Olympic athlete would have had something to say about the posters. If it had been the case maybe they should become artists themselves. There is a difference between loving art, being interested by it and making it. Remember as a viewer or reader that your opinions are only based on what you see and know from your side of the wall!!

  • SamG

    Every time I look at the Hodgkin picture I see a blue curly-haired girl rather uncomfortably seated and clutching her knees for warmth. Hateful pool!
    The Hume is definitely a grower image and the Emin is unashamedly positive.
    On a historical gfx note, I’m a fan of the Innsbruck ’76, Moscow ’80 posters and Lillehammer ’94 cave drawings (not colour schemes): http://www.theolympicdesign.com/deu/olympic-collection/classification/posters/
    Contemporary? The Alan Clarke 2012 designs seem to be the best unofficial UK images so far.

  • I have to say, the moment this was announced I felt angry that designers and illustrators in the UK had been ignored in favour of a selection of artists for whom exposure (and money) was not really a problem (to varying degrees, of course).

    I agree on the semantic issue of calling them ‘posters’ rather than ‘prints’ and also on the need for designers to have a tighter brief – two points very well made and ones that I haven’t seen in previous arguments from designers.

    A Olympic poster design brief would have been a career high for almost any UK designer or illustrator, and with this direction they’ve missed a chance to make the visual coms stars of tomorrow by not looking to younger up-and-coming talent.

    Credit should be given to the artist’s work in the posters they did release. Art by its very nature is subjective, so not everything is going to be loved by the public, but there are definitely some that will have a lasting impact. And after all, showcasing any creativity (whether it’s artists, designers or illustrators) on such a large scale is to be applauded.

  • Like many, the problem is the lose of identity. You will only know if these are Olympic posters when they have the logo attached, apart from that, they come of as lazy art. Yes art is subjective but these posters are made for the masses hence it is not reaching the target audience.

    I already jumped the gun and created my own versions. You can check it out at my blog.

  • Inspiring!

  • Steve

    Im so disappointed by the whole visual aspect to this olympics, but for anyone who thinks kids could do better obviously hasn’t driven down my road and seen the road safety signs made by the local school children. They are fucking shit.

  • joelsharp

    I can’t stand dumb ass ignorant people who don’t understand art saying things like I could do that myself or my child could have done better. The people who say this have never picked up a brush and when they do they get a sloppy mess of poop on paper. their kids are better because the are unconscious of what they are doing and that is the beauty behind an expressive abstract piece!

    Joel Sharp Artist-

  • AndyMc

    Some good, some bad, some bloody ugly…

    Emin, as ever, can’t see beyond how it all relates back to her. Me! Me! Me! Do we really care who she loves or what inspires her? Against the context of paralympic achievement her work looks every bit the irrelevant scrawl on a paper napkin it probably is.

  • I see posters by graphic designers and illustrators that are boring, naive and lazy all the time.

  • Some of them are clever, but I still believe that most of them aren’t the best pieces of art in existence. If most people have to ask what it means and represents, I think it’s time to get back to the drawing board.

  • FlyingScud

    Buy a copy of each of these immediately and keep them in their tubes. They are going to be so rare (valuable) in 10 years time, as it seems nobody wants to go anywhere near them.

  • Dominic

    Fucking hell – lighten up everyone – put down those anti-depressants

    They’re not meant to be informative, sales posters for the games. They’re prints. Done by artists. And some great ones at that. I don’t like all of them, but your not meant to – it’s art (Grandmas might love the Gary Hume one).

    Surely their sole requirement is to convey some of the spirit and emotion that the Olympics brings to people. Whether it’s a swimmer launching off the block and turning in an instant, or the rows of seats in the stand or lanes of a track.

    Lighten up and let your imagination go a little bit – you never know – you might even enjoy yourself.

  • J

    For me, the most fundamental and appealing aspect of the Olympics is its inclusivity.
    These ‘prints’ feel far from inclusive.

  • These posters are reflective of the identity crises facing the games next summer. When they first came out I put my thoughts here: http://mikiedaniel.wordpress.com/2011/11/04/london-2012-posters-an-olympic-sized-failure/ which was an instant reaction – like you would treat a poster (Let me know what you think)

    The problem is the general public aren’t going to be doing an in depth analysis, and comparison to previous years posters, whilst on the tube. Which makes these posters poor.

  • good god • this looks pretty amateurish to the last hue • i think they should have put more artists on the table • at least more kids from the college • such weird effort • such wasted opportunity • the single point of focus of the art should be to show what olympics stands for humanity – in spirit and action • this is just some random doodle • please ^shift + del^ this_

  • Hmmm, some interesting views here.. the comments regarding style are pretty standard objections to a lot of contemporary/abstract art… yet looking at past posters, there are a load there which are equally vague and unrelated to the Olympics.

    The big deal is the limited editions that have been selling – i.e. the Bridget Riley prints going for £3000. The art world has been brought to the masses by Banksy, ebay and the internet in general, but is this just an excuse to coin in a few quid extra, by publishing pretty sameish examples of artists’ work and adding to the coffers?

    http://www.mannroquero.com has examples of a lot of these these artists’ prints, and the prices today are a lot higher than they were a few years ago!!

  • david wallis

    As a graphic design student anticipating the world i m about to enter where lies my pursuit to create greater than what has been and stimulate the next generation of designers after myself, i can’t help but not find one solid reason why; as iconic a moment an olympic games can be and the subsequent highlighting of a culture that follows, would such patronisingly crass, run of the mill a-level standard artwork be used as a pedestal of reflection upon my generation and my peers graphic ability. It’s depressingly unambitious and generic art such as this which only bestows a negative response within anyone not solidly aware of there post-modern context and off putting to the people this event are meant to benefit. Within three months of studying graphics and having an art background also, i was made aware fo the difference between art and design, that both are visual yet only one has function, and this point i sorely missed here. The function to promote should not be given to artists but the practitioners who understand fully the merits of promotion and design. I am saddened that my voice as a designer is overcast by this output.

  • Munge

    The problem I see in all this is that the artists are not inspired by the subject, they are merely responding to a brief. Does anyone believe that they could really give a toss about the Olympics, jaded and compromised as that commodity is? Can you picture them glued to her televions, watching the preliminary discus events?
    In this sense, Tracey Emin’s silly, self-centred doodle is probably the most authentic work here, as she is the only artist creating a work about something that honestly interests her – namely, herself.
    How about some posters about corrupt Olympic officials, drug-enhanced athletes and the exclusion of most of the population from high profile events due to high ticket prices? Now that would be interesting.


  • Saint Maddenus

    I think Blue Peter should have been the outlet for this subject matter, They are great at getting competitions out into the open. It draws on the talent that the Olympics are supposed to be inspiring in the UK, that is to be part of things. The apparently closed shop competitition just adds to opinion that art is for elitists, competing at a high levelin sport is for the elitists too.

    It is true, with all the bungling mis-management, awful logo and other critisims of the Olympics themselves this is bound to draw some of that fire, but do not be misguided, if the work had been any good then they would have soared over it. The best peice I have seen here is Helen’s in the blog above!

  • I see posters by graphic designers and illustrators that are boring, naive and lazy all the time.

  • What is art? Marcel Duchamp stirred the pot big-time with The Fountain.

    It’s the same question with alot of the “art” (call it what you will) in the posters (call them what you will) above.

    Personally, I think the simplistic paint coupled with the sharp and well defined logotypes below has got a good look, although the pieces of art on their own are mostly (in my opinion) rubbish, and as was mentioned above, ‘my three year old son could make this’!

  • geoff catlow

    Forgive me for being a little late to this slag fest. I have been gently seething ever since the launch of the logo !
    2 single letters having sex and boring everyone in the process. Why should we have expected anything any better, the celebrity olympic posters are for the most part a nice little earner. A phone in design from a bunch of artists with very little visual intelligence, after all we are told all the time they are concerned with “IDEAS”.
    The Munich Posters were the product of serious minded comissioning and seriously visual artists and they were printed in a traditional manner, silk screen and Litho, thus imparting a quality feel to a mass produced item. So the malaise here is lazy thinking and poor commisioning. I’m a painter, I could have done better.
    Geoff Catlow 30. 7. 2012.