Marking 30 years since the Los Angeles Olympics in 1984, The Olympic Museum in Lausanne is currently staging an exhibition dedicated to the look that the late Deborah Sussman and team created for the Games, alongside a show of the 15 art posters originally commissioned for the event…
A selection of 38 photographs taken during the competition have been on display on the Quais d’Ouchy (on the shore of Lake Geneva in front of The Museum) since late July. Entitled Colorful LA, the exhibition documents the opening ceremony, the many famous sportsmen and women who competed and, of course, the colourful environmental design created by the studio Sussman/Prejza.
Working in collaboration with architects, The Jerde Partnership, the studio’s identity and graphics system for the LA Olympics changed the way the look of an Olympic Games could be achieved on a number of levels.
After a massive overspend at the Montreal Games in 1976, followed by the lowest attended Games by country in Moscow in 1980, the US had an opportunity to rethink the Olympics.
“The government wasn’t paying for the Games, so since it was privately funded, the money had to be raised,” Sussman told CR in December last year (the full feature was republished in tribute to her last month).
“There was neither the time nor the funding to build big monstrous buildings.” Instead, what Jon Jerde proposed was a ‘pop-up’ Olympic site with large gateways, towers and walls made from inexpensive scaffolding, repurposed tents, nylon banners and canopies.
© International Olympics Committee
In its refusal to put national colours at the forefront of the Games’ image, the palette of hot majenta, vermillion, aqua and chrome yellow would prove to be one of the most radical aspects of the Los Angeles Games.
It was less about reflecting the fact that it was being held in the nation of red, white and blue; and more about the city itself, its mix of cultures and place in the world. The main influences were “the colours of the Pacific rim”, Sussman recalled, having adopted hues from Mexico and Japan along with the “technologies of celebration” unique to those cultures.
“To explain our ideas, I used pictures of those huge papier-mâché figures made in Asia and Mexico which go up in flames – and bamboo for the scaffolding,” she told CR. “The cultures of the Pacific rim, especially Mexico and Japan were appropriate to the culture of Los Angeles; while India and its attitude towards ‘celebration’ was of enormous influence on what we did.”
As of last week, the full set of art posters that were created specially for the Games have also been on show inside the Olympic Museum’s Art Lounge.
These include works by Robert Rauschenberg, whose design was chosen as the official poster of the Games, David Hockney’s fragmented portrait of a swimmer, and Roy Lichstenstein’s interpretation of a horse and rider.
The Organising Committee originaly approached 15, mainly American artists, and gave them free rein to interpret the theme of sport and the Olympic Games.
Official Olympic poster by Robert Rauschenberg, 1984, Knapp Communications Corporation, ed.
Official Olympic poster by David Hockney, 1984, Alan Lithograph, Inc
Official Olympic poster by Roy Lichtenstein, 1984, Knapp Communications Corporation, ed.; Alan Lithograph, Inc
The exhibitions run until November 23 and entry to the museum is free. Museum opening times: May 1 to October 19: open every day from 9am to 6pm. October 20 to April 30: open from Tuesday to Sunday from 10am to 6pm. The Olympic Museum, Quai d’Ouchy 1, 1001, Lausanne, Switzerland. See olympic.org/museum.
© National Olympic Photographic Pool / Keyes, Con
‘Rocket man’ Bill Suitor rises into the air propelled by a NASA-design ‘jet pack’. © IOPP
© National Olympic Photographic Pool / Dickman, Jay