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Poster designs for the 2012 Olympics in London have been unveiled, and will be created by the nobility of the British art world.

Dory Carr-Harris, PSFK
  • 21 june 2011


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This article titled “Top British artists to design 2012 Olympics posters” was written by Mark Brown, for The Guardian on Monday 20th June 2011 23.01 UTC

Posters for next year’s Olympics and Paralympics will be designed by top British artists including Howard Hodgkin, Bridget Riley, Tracey Emin and Chris Ofili, it was announced.

The 12 commissioned artists were named to coincide with the one-year countdown to next year’s London 2012 festival – part of the Cultural Olympiad celebrations – which opens on 21 June .

Among those on the panel that whittled more than 100 names from the art world down to 12 was the Tate’s director, Sir Nicholas Serota, who predicted “colour, vitality, energy and diversity” in the 2012 posters that will be seen all over the capital next year.

Six male and six female artists have been chosen. The others asked to create a piece were Fiona Banner, Michael Craig-Martin, Martin Creed, Anthea Hamilton, Gary Hume, Sarah Morris, Bob and Roberta Smith and Rachel Whiteread.

The posters are still at the design stage but Emin, who will create one for the Paralympics, said she wanted to do something that celebrated the coolness of London.

She is considering drawing prominent landmarks such as the London Eye and the houses of parliament, adding words that offer encouragement to the participants. She is still working on her final design.

Emin said she was surprised but pleased to be asked.

“The posters are intrinsic to the Olympics, they are the things that are going to stay around,” she added.

She had been sent a book of posters from previous games, she said, but was unlikely to take inspiration from the designs.

“A lot of them are about values which aren’t so important now,” she said. “I’m interested in the party side – the celebration.”

The artists have been asked to produce a poster that is identifiable with their own style. “For me, that could be a bit tricky,” Emin admitted. “The poster has got to be for everybody and it has got to be a celebration of London. The Olympics is going to show the world that London can really throw a good party. It is going to give everyone a high.”

Hodgkin is the only one of the artists of the 12 who has experience in this area, having been commissioned by Andy Warhol to produce a poster for the 1984 Sarajevo Olympics.

Hodgkin said he had a pragmatic reason for agreeing to the Olympic commission.

“I said yes because I thought it would be nice for a lot of people to see my work,” he said.

His enthusiasm for the Olympics was also rather more muted than some, as he admitted looking forward to it “only in so far as there’ll be something else to see on the telly”.

One of the younger artists on the list of 12 is Anthea Hamilton, who was clearly more enthused by the games than Hodgkin: “It’s really exciting – you can feel the tension building in the city,” she said. She called the commission “a big honour and a nice surprise”, adding: “I get a lot of the images which I use to make my work from the city, everyday life and mass media, so the idea that I’ll get to make a work that goes back into that is a really nice way for me to develop.”

The London 2012 festival, which celebrates the Olympics through the arts, will feature artists such as the late Pina Bausch, Plan B, Mike Leigh, Leona Lewis, Miranda Hart and Damon Albarn.

Tickets for the festival go on sale in October but many events are free, including one of the first and most intriguing, which takes place on Lake Windermere in Cumbria. The spectacular show with music, drumming and pyrotechnics features the French company Les Commandos Percu.

London’s mayor, Boris Johnson, said: “A year from today, on midsummer’s day, the festivities will begin with the launch of the London 2012 festival.

“The capital will be alive with extraordinary music, film, art, poetry, performance – a festival on a scale never before seen to celebrate the greatest sporting show on Earth.”

• This article was amended on 21 June 2011. The original picture caption said that Tracey Emin and Lord Coe were at Tate Modern. This has been corrected.

guardian.co.uk © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

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