The Art of the Olympics

The Olympic Park in London may still be out of bounds for most of us, but the Art in the Park programme has now been unveiled, offering a glimpse of the 26 new arts installations that have been commissioned in celebration of the 2012 Games.

The Olympic Park in London may still be out of bounds for most of us, but the Art in the Park programme has now been unveiled, offering a glimpse of the 26 new arts installations that have been commissioned in celebration of the 2012 Games.

While much of the arty attention has so far been on Anish Kapoor’s epic Orbit tower, which stands at 115 metres high, the ODA’s Art in the Park installations reveal a more subtle, measured approach, with many of the artworks designed to blend into the Olympic Park infrastructure, offering moments of surprise for visitors as they move around the park. Refreshingly, the Art in the Park programme has also concentrated on working with emerging or less well-known artists, meaning there’s hardly a YBA in sight.

Monica Bonvicini, Run by day (by night is shown top)

Monica Bonvicini’s Run sculpture (shown above) is the most striking work among those commissioned. At nine metres tall, it is the largest standalone artwork in the park, and is situated on the plaza of the 6,500-capacity Cooper Box handball arena. Constructed from steel and reflective glass, which produces a mirrored effect that will no doubt prove popular with visitors, by night it will be lit dramatically with LED lighting.

Keith Wilson, Steles (Waterworks)

Martin Richman, Underwhirl

Ackroyd & Harvey, History Trees

Other artworks are intended to blend into the park’s bridges and underpasses, as well as its trees and even security fences. Keith Wilson has created a series of artworks along the Waterworks River, which will be used as boat moorings after the Games, while Hackney-based artist Martin Richman has created two pieces for the park, one on a new bridge, the other in one of the main underpasses in the North Park. The latter, shown above, features large swirls created from coloured glass beads and plaster. British artists Ackroyd & Harvey have adorned a series of semi-mature trees with bespoke metal rings, each of which is engraved with words specific to the history of the site.

Clare Woods, Brick Fields and Carpenters Curve

DJ Simpson, Open Folds

Two artists, Clare Woods and DJ Simpson, have been commissioned to create works for the façades of the utility buildings in the south of the park. Woods’s two works (shown above, with Kapoor’s Orbit tower in the background), have been created using over 88,000 ceramic tiles, while Simpson has used punched anodised aluminium to create an abstract landscape piece. What’s unclear is whether the rather ugly and intrusive security fencing and cameras, currently fixed to the works and featured in these pics, will remain on the finished pieces or be removed when the park opens.

Spark Catchers poem by Lemn Sissay

Eton Manor poem by Carol Ann Duffy

A number of poems have also been commissioned for the Olympic Park as part of the Winning Words project, and are displayed around the park on walls and also carved into a series of wooden structures. Many of the poems draw on local history, including Lemn Sissay’s work Spark Catchers, which was inspired by the history of the Bryant and May match factory and the first strikes led by Annie Bessant, and Carol Ann Duffy’s poem Eton Manor, which commemorates the history of the Eton Manor site in the north of the park.

This emphasis on local history forms a key aspect of many of the artworks commissioned for the Art in the Park programme, reflecting the importance of legacy to the project. All the artworks on display will remain in the park after the Games, when it will be fully opened to the public and renamed The Queen Elizabeth II Olympic Park.

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