London 2012 Posters: An Olympic Sized Failure

Today saw the release of the London 2012 posters. And no, they are not a joke. These are actual ‘posters’ made by actual ‘artists’.

Olympic bashing isn’t cool, it’s a huge achievement that London will be hosting the games next summer, a responsibility that it will no doubt fulfil successfully. But these ‘posters’ deserve a bashing.

For those too lazy to click the link here is one example poster by artist Howard Hodgkin:

Yeah… that is it. Nothing says Olympic games like some blue smudge right?

The Olympics festival site provides this explanation:

“Howard Hodgkin describes his paintings as representational pictures of emotional situations.

For his Olympic print Hodgkin has created Swimming – a deep, swirling mass of blue flooding across the page. In the darkest area of colour the outline of a figure can be made out as if pushing off after a tumble turn.

The fluidity of the brushstrokes perfectly captures the movement of water and the sensation of swimming.”

Sure, if you insist on pretending to have tastes of the higher culture, you will no doubt nod along to that description and even claim you can see the figure doing the tumble turn. Back in the real world… you can’t. You can see the figure if you use your imagination, but then surely the poster should be blank and we should be instructed to imagine a really good poster about swimming.

The only half decent effort was Michael Craig-Martin’s piece “GO”:

A piece that actually looks like it could be related to the Olympics. Any other posters in the set just look like another piece of art when taken out of context.

There’s nothing wrong with this style of posters, it is definitely art. Anything is art these days. But when you have the huge potential of the Olympic games, a worldwide phenomenon, the creative options are almost limitless. There are thousands upon thousands of young creatives, artists & designers out there who could have created wonderful pieces reflective of the modern Olympic games.

So when we are presented with these smudges and doodles it doesn’t just feel like they’ve dropped the ball here, they’ve lost the ball completely.

Maybe I am looking at these posters through the eyes of an advertiser and not an artist. But when does the line lay between creativity and rubbish?

It just feels lazy. How many of these artists sat back after submitting their print, and thought to themselves, “I can’t believe I got away with that!”

6 Responses to “London 2012 Posters: An Olympic Sized Failure”


  1. 1 Papi November 4, 2011 at 21:32

    Absolute tosh – THE LOT OF THEM. I bet all of the artists, with their over inflated egos, consider going to toilet every morning ‘a work of art’. They should get out more!!

  2. 2 Cogito Dexter (@cogitodexter) November 5, 2011 at 00:04

    In an hour’s work I managed to come up with something perhaps, ooh, at least a light year better…

    http://twitpic.com/7awd0p

    I’m no artist, but imagine what I could do with a full sized commission!

  3. 3 Cosmin November 7, 2011 at 10:56

    Came here via Creative Review – some comments there seemed to raise more serious problems than you do in this post. I’d like to leave a few lines here, for posterity:

    My impression is that you’re hating gratuitously, but the fun part in life is that time is a good master: In the future you’ll come to realize how wrong you were when you only saw things from one point of view :) Do read on all the comments from CR and see all the angles of the issue.

    Because the possibilities are endless (and responsibilities huge) it’s hard to come up with something that nobody would criticize. Also, always think of the purpose of deployment: this artsy poster thingy is a PR gimmick, and, well, these are the times we live in, as illustrated by the commissioned artists. I myself would have preferred different executions, but it’s not advertising, it’s art. And we don’t get to decide, so why bother ranting?

    And really, it’s OK that people have to use their imagination. I like the “Swimming” work precisely for that.

    • 4 Mikie Daniel November 7, 2011 at 11:05

      You’re right. Problem is that even as pieces of art, they are (for me) disappointing. They may stand the test of time but it feels they may be remembered for all the wrong reasons, as will the logo and the mascots.

      We keep being told these are ‘our games’ yet ” we don’t get to decide, so why bother ranting?” which is frustrating at times.

      It wouldn’t be such a big deal, but on the global stage and with such endless amount of potential, these scribbles and smudges just feel lazy.

      They’re reflective of the identity crises that the games are facing next summer.

  4. 5 Penny Gallagher November 7, 2011 at 19:43

    Couldn’t agree more, lazy overpaid ‘artists’ taking the **** on the whole while patronising the public with their pretentious explanations. Its the Emperors New Clothes again. I have seen much better posters done by real designers which will hopefully outsell these.


  1. 1 E-bike Trackback on November 13, 2011 at 01:42

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