• Bandr

    Bob & Roberta Smith: ParaIympic Poster (detail)

Art

Designing London 2012: How did the Cultural Olympiad fare?

Posted by Liv Siddall,

It can be hard to concentrate on the artistic side of things when you’ve got some of the world’s most amazing sports men and women doing things on your TV screen that you had never dreamt of before (did you see the rhythmic gymnastics?). But while all of the sporting triumph was going on, in the background lurked something that had been in the making since 2008 – The Cultural Olympiad.

Whilst the actual games themselves were taking place safely contained within the 500 acre piece of Stratford, the Cultural Olympiad – something of such scale that it was almost too much to take in – was going on all over the country, all the time, with some events getting little or no coverage at all.

So what exactly was the Cultural Olympiad and did it affect us at all? The answer is yes it did, possibly in subtler ways than you may have thought. The Olympic website claims that 16 million people were involved in the Cultural Olympiad at some point or other, not counting the London 2012 Festival which provided “over 10 million chances to see free world-class events throughout the UK.”

  • Antheahamilton-divers

    Anthea Hamilton: Olympic Poster

The Olympic posters

Cast your mind back to soggy November 2011 when from Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 was setting the record for the highest video game ever sold (6.5 million) the other subject on people’s lips was the unveiling of the much-anticipated posters designed specifically for the Olympics and Paralympics. Some of our most famous artists including Tracey Emin, Martin Creed, Fiona Banner, Chris Ofili and Bridget Riley took up the mantle and the results were hotly-debated. Anthea Hamilton’s graceful-yet-powerful design of the legs walking upside down on the Olympic rings contrasted nicely with Tracey Emin’s heartfelt words to the Paralympic athletes. Ignore the predictably scathing comments from the more traditional art lovers, and this set of relatively controversial posters actually seemed to go down pretty well.

  • Rachel-whiteread-2012

    Rachel Whiteread: Olympic poster

  • Tracy-emin---birds-2012

    Tracey Emin: Paralympic Poster

Jeremy Deller – Sacrilege

Nothing screams “fun for all the family” more than an enormous bouncy castle replica of one of the most mystical, respected landmarks of Great Britain. Jeremy Deller’s Sacrilege – which, by the way is the same size as the actual Stonehenge – toured the country stopping at 25 locations where it paused long enough to let as many people as possible bounce on its luminous surface for 15 minutes each. Being one of the funniest concepts for a piece of outdoor artwork for a long time, this all-welcoming public artwork has put smiles on the faces of pretty much everyone who’s heard about it – let alone those who were lucky enough to get a bounce.

  • Jd

    Jeremy Deller: Sacrilege

Martin Creed – All The Bells

Now this is a good idea. With people being forced to re-mortgage their houses in order to pay for seats at the opening ceremony (not really, but nearly) Martin Creed’s plan to get everyone ringing a bell, no matter what kind or size, as hard and as fast as possible all over the country to mark the beginning of the games was absolutely inspired. So on the morning of Friday July 27, millions of people around the country grabbed whatever bell they could get their enthusiastic mitts on and rang it for exactly three minutes. This enormous event ranged from the Royal Navy ringing bells from ships along the shoreline, to almost every dusty bell-rope in the land getting a good old yank, to people merely playing ringtones aloud on the Millennium Bridge. See a fairly strange interview with the much-loved artist and man behind the idea below.

Lucien Freud at the National Gallery: Portraits

In a show beginning almost a year after his death in 2011, some of the most sought-after and exquisite portraits were exhibited in London’s National Gallery to a staggering 175,000 people, the largest amount ever to come and witness a single show in the gallery’s history. With people flocking from all over the world to witness this surpisingly large amount of paintings, the intimate show which revealed so much more to the artist than anyone could have anticipated was, according to director Ruth MacKenzie, only possible through Olympic funding, and was undoubtedly one of the cultural highlights not just of 2012 but of the decade.

  • Freud

    Lucien Freud at the National Gallery: Portraits

David Hockney at The Royal Academy

Similar to the Freud show, the Hockney exhibition of homages to the British countryside managed to utterly capture the hearts of Great Britain with impeccable timing. With queues extending out into the rain at ungodly hours, this was an almost ludicrously busy exhibition throughout its three-month stint at the Royal Academy, and (as far as I know) received no bad reviews. Proving that he is one of the most important and dedicated artists in the world, Hockney’s images of wild, rolling English hills (some created on iPads no less) cheerfully reminded everyone that viewed it that no matter what was to happen in the ever-looming and all-encompassing Olympic Games that there is a lot more to be proud of in this country than just showcasing our organisational and sporting skills. This exhibition will truly go down in history as one that restored faith in the astoundingly impressive artistic legacy that Britain has to offer.

  • Hockney

    David Hockney at The Royal Academy

So, as the games are dismantled and the athletes go home, we will be left with not just a spare velodrome and a lot of light-up mattresses going up on eBay, but with an enormous amount of people that bit more involved in the arts than they were before this whole thing started back in 2008 – and that is a marvellous achievement. Let’s hope post arts-funding cuts we can find some ways to continue it.

Ls-300

Posted by Liv Siddall

Liv joined It’s Nice That as an intern in 2011 and worked across online, print, events and latterly Features Editor before leaving in May 2015.

Most Recent: Art View Archive

  1. Michaelcraig-martin-onbeinganartist-istnicethat-list

    In some circumstances, calling a book On Being An Artist would seem pretentious and pompous, but if anyone knows about being an artist, it’s Michael Craig-Martin. Over his extraordinary career he has studied with Chuck Close and Richard Serra, met the likes of Andy Warhol, Jasper Johns, John Cage and Charles Saatchi, had work shown at Tate Modern, the Pompidou Centre and MoMA, and taught some of the YBAs’ leading lights including Damien Hirst and Sarah Lucas.

  2. Ricco_maresca_mexican_pulp_art_its_nice_that_list_2

    Ballsy, bizarre and a little bit racy, these Mexican pulp fiction book covers are fantastic fun and epitomise our need for a bit of weird naughtiness. The kitsch-factor is overwhelming as scantily clad women run away in terror, a man in purple spandex is surrounded by adoring cats and giant robots menacingly pick up shiny red cars.

    As part of an exhibition at New York gallery Ricco Maresca held earlier this year, the collection is a celebration of pulp paperbacks released in Mexico during the 60s and 70s. Many of the artists remain unidentified which is a shame as some of these are absolute gems. Without book titles, there’s no context for the artwork and we’re left with the ordinary and extraordinary crashing into each other in glorious fashion. According to Ricco Maresca, there’s a key difference between Mexican pulp art and the American pulp art coming out at the same time. As well as the drama and sauciness, much of Mexican pulp art prominently featured violence, sci-fi, psychedelia, and crime, making it all the more outrageous.

  3. Yayoi-kusama-itsnicethat-list

    Yayoi Kusama is one of few artists who is seems to be without comparison. Her new exhibition, Give Me Love takes place at New York’s David Zwirner gallery, and features a collection of her enormous brightly coloured canvases. Their sunny dispositions are undercut with titles which reveal a more disquieting undertone for example I Who Cry in the Flowering Season, or I Am Dying Now There the Death Is. In another room a series of her bulging Pumpkin sculptures, reminiscent of decaying fruit in spite of their metallic sheen and polka dot finish, reinforces the juxtaposition of the joyous and the sinister.

  4. Brest_history_and_chips_it's_nice_that_list

    Imagine a John Stezaker collage let loose in the kitchen and you’ve got the History and Chips series from Brest Brest Brest. With a portfolio that includes a poster of Elvis Presley’s face emerging from a melting ice cream, the graphic design studio based in the south of France couldn’t fail to pique our interest. For their playful History and Chips collages, Rémy Poncet and Arnaud Jarsaillon have raided the fridge and dressed up classic movie stills and vintage portraits with everything from smoked salmon and mustard, to ham and pineapple. A testament to the fact that food makes everything better, these old pictures are given a new lease of life thanks to a little bubblegum and a wry sense of humour.

  5. Olafur_eliasson_the_weather_project_it's_nice_that

    This week the most visited modern and contemporary art museum in the world celebrates its 15 year anniversary. After its transformation from derelict power station to beloved beacon of British culture, Tate Modern has defined a generation and helped open art to the everyman. Here, we look at some of the top moments over the last decade and a half at Britain’s leading arts institution.

  6. Kings-cross-pond-ooze-architects-its-nice-that-list

    I’ve slid down an art installation before thanks to Carsten Höller, and I’ve frolicked about in a room full of balloons thanks to Martin Creed, but never before had I literally swum in art until this morning. Bright and early, there I was shivering in art, thanks to a bathing pond art installation in a building site in London’s King’s Cross. The piece, formally known as Of Soil and Water: the King’s Cross Pond Club , was created by Ooze Architects (Eva Pfannes and Sylvain Hartenberg) and artist Marjetica Potrč, and takes the form of a natural, chemical-free pool, complete with plants and bushes. And who knows what else – I didn’t dare think what one day could be lurking in there after the maggoty old python Hampstead Heath ponds story of a few years back. 

  7. List

    They wowed us in 2010 with their pop-up cinema in an old petrol station in Clerkenwell, The Cineroleum, and the following year they won us over with Folly for a Flyover in Hackney Wick. Now, after 15 years of transforming unusual spaces, the east London collective Assemble has been shortlisted for the 2015 Turner Prize for the revival of a cluster of derelict terraced houses in Liverpool, Granby Four Streets. Borne out of the DIY-culture and the flurry of pop-ups like Bold Tendencies that took London by storm a few years ago, the collective of 18 designers and architects is an exciting choice, and a first for the often sensational art prize.

  8. List-erik-kessels-unfinished-father_002-its-nice-that

    Kesselskramer co-founder Erik Kessels’ side projects usually seem light-hearted: take his book Attack of the Giant Fingers, for instance. His latest project, though, has a decidedly more serious slant, having been borne of his father suffering a stroke. For the project, named Unfinished Father, Erik looked to his pa’s passion for restoring Fiat 500 (Topolino) cars. Prior to his stroke, Kessels senior was halfway through completing his fifth of such restorations, but it was left unfinished since the attack left him barely able to move or speak.

  9. List-jeremy-deller-vinyl-factory-venice-biennale-its-nice-that

    All-round superdude Jeremy Deller has created a jukebox for the Venice Biennale. But instead of Fleetwood Mac’s Go Your Own Way or other pub staples like Russ Abbott’s Atmosphere, it plays only the sounds of factories. Cleverly named Factory Records, the piece contains 40 seven-inch records, each of which features the ambient sound of a different factory. Visitors to the piece can put on whichever they fancy, and if they really like it, they will be able to buy the sounds as a limited-edition box set designed by Deller with Fraser Muggeridge and released by The Vinyl Factory. The work continues Deller’s ongoing investigations into English working-class concerns, and links to his Venice Biennale performative piece, which uses archive materials to look at factory working conditions from the 19th Century to the present day.

  10. Robertnicol-itsnicethat-list

    It’s been a few years now since we posted the work of artist, illustrator and Camberwell tutor Robert Nicol, but our tardiness only means there’s a heap of new work for us to enjoy in his portfolio. From paintings to book covers, editorial illustrations to ceramic sculptures, Rob’s able to turn his versatile talents to a number of different ends. It’s interesting to look at his work together and see how he can amplify or refine certain traits depending on the job in hand. So we have his wonderful paintings where bold colours and surreal characters are given free rein, contrasted with his stylish book covers where hints of narrative achieve a lot in a quieter context.

  11. List--itsnicethat-ppic0035_picasso

    It’s always great to see another side of the biggest names in art, and in this selection of posters from artists including Picasso, Henri Matisse, Yves Klein and Le Corbusier, our curiosity is amply satisfied. These masters’ works have been drawn together for a London exhibition showcasing lithographic posters from the archive of Galerie Mourlot, which originated in Paris but now calls New York its home. Each of the posters is lithograph printed, and all are fascinating; many showing a looser style to the ones we’re so familiar with from these big names.

  12. Christophniemann-esgibtnichtgutes-itsnicethat-list

    My colleague Emily Gosling wrote a great piece for the latest issue of our Printed Pages magazine in which she called out the patent nudity of the emperor by saying that in reality, the creative process can be pretty dull to witness. Obviously that’s not to say that we want to see slick creative work with all traces of the artist removed; in fact in our digitally-defined age we delight in being able to see the spirit of the image-maker writ large.

  13. Kristoffersonsanpablo-itsnicethat-list

    If you like Eric Yahnker – and let’s face it, who doesn’t? – then you’re really going to enjoy the work of Kristofferson San Pablo, a Filipino artist now based in Los Angeles. His work takes an ironic look at popular culture, lampooning it for its absurdity, but also acknowledging its utter infectiousness. Kristofferson’s strange pencil drawings and luxurious paintings eroticise Simpsons characters, destroy our lust for celebrities and ridicule the stars of reality television, making sure that when surveying the modern world our tongues are kept firmly in cheek.