The Olympics - an art history special

July 23 2012

Image of The Olympics - an art history special

Picture: V&A

I can't think of anything art historical amongst the London Olympics. Those vaguely terrifying one-eyed mascots popping up around London can hardly be considered sculptures of future renown. And the less said about the ArcelorMittal Orbit the better. If you see anything vaguely old and artistic associated with the Games, let me know. It all seems to be relentlessly modern and forward-looking. 

I like a bit of nostalgia, so was interested to see a copy of the 1948 Olympic poster on offer at the Christie's 'London Sale' I mentioned earlier. It was designed by Walter Herz, and he evidently liked his art history for not only do we get a backdrop of Charles Barry's Houses of Parliament, but also an image of Discobolus. The sculpture in question must be the Towneley Discobolus now in the British Museum. Herz's genius in the 1948 poster was to use two images that instantly spoke of London and the Olympic ideal. Nothing in the marketing of the current games achieves this. Isn't that rather sad?

Update: a reader alerts me to the British Museum's tasteful bag with a reproduction of the 1948 poster on it, yours for £15.99. And if you don't fancy bidding over £1,000 for the original 1948 poster, you can buy a reproduction here at the National Gallery for £20. Judging by the reams of unsold 2012 merchandise I see in the shops, I'll wager that the retro Olympic stuff is outselling the modern. 

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