Olympic posters: our native genius

The Turner Prize nominees and winners came up with a predictable set of embarrassing posters for the Olympics. Apart from the perpetrators themselves, no one could be found to say a good word about their efforts. Someone needs to get a grip. First we were presented with an inept logo which had cost £400,000 for what looked like two minutes work; then there was an artless rollercoaster sculpture selected by the President-For-Life; and now this lot of fashionable scribblers who couldn’t design a wheel from blueprints have done their worst, also, very conveniently, courtesy of the President-For-Life. Inevitably, as with Gibbereesh’s rollercoaster the PFL chose his reliable lackeys from the Turner Prize not to mention a serving Tate Trustee, Bob and Roberta Smith, i.e. one of those currently responsible for employing him.

Rachel Whiteread and Gary Hume excelled themselves with lovely colouring in – if their efforts had arrived crumpled from the nursery you might have fixed them proudly to the fridge. Bridget Riley knocked off her usual stripes. Each small poster – and these are nothing like the grand sheets of Lautrec – will be available to buy for £7 when an exhibition of the works opens at the Tate next summer.

Now for the good news, that is if you are one of the participating artists. The posters are being released as signed prints courtesy of Counter Editions, thus enabling the artists to reward themselves in the manner to which they have become accustomed. Bridget Riley’s stripes, for example, is in an edition of 250 and started at £3,000 an impression – yes, that’s a gross of £750,000 for one signed screenprint, and it has already sold out. The Margate Express has hers in an edition of 300 at a throwaway £1,800 apiece – a mere £540,000… It is also sold out. The gross will, of course, have been far greater than the sums cited here as the cost of each print increased as the edition sold out. Still available however are ‘Professor’ Gary Hume’s blots (near right), a snip at £540 in an edition of 250 (£135,000 minimum gross) and Howard Hodgkin’s blue wave (£1,300, ed 300, minimum gross £394,000 – far right). No wonder the artists stood in a line laughing when their works were unveiled.

Martin Creed, at last now widely regarded as educationally subnormal, said of his inspired marvel (£490, lithograph edition 250, minimum gross £122,500): “The colours are based on the Olympic colours but they are changed to make them nicer.” Here is the Mental Paralympian of State Art talking.

What we got in this project was the usual bunch of over-rated contemporary artists promoting themselves and their art and not the Olympics. We can’t discover from anywhere what the deal was with the artists; were they actually paid to come up with their contributions or was their remuneration to be the loud ker-ching of limited editions? If you come across any information please let us know.

… And then there was the dear old Margate Express. No are event is nowadays complete without her embonpoint rippling over the proceedings. On the same page of the papers when these Olympic efforts were announced you could look across from the Express’s maudlin scribble to Leonardo da Vinci’s drawing of hands on show in the National Gallery. An unfair comparison, yes, but it is surely impossible to look from one to the other and not think what a catastrophic deterioration has occurred not only in the technical ability of artists but in the willingness of those responsible for protecting standards in art to promote such conspicuous rubbish.

By the way, if you wish to purchase all 12 of the posters you can buy the set in a nice box for £11,805. A commemorative heirloom for all the family to enjoy, and what a bargain.

 David Lee

The Jackdaw, Jan-Feb 2012

Latest News

These posters are beginning to reappear on the market.

Three editions sold out within days: they were Tracey Emin, Rachel Whiteread and Bridget Riley.  Now , one of the Rileys is being sold  at auction with an estimate of  £2,000-£3,000. This poster racket was not only a scam to line the pockets of already well-to-do artists but also to allow a quick turnover to collectors eager to cash in on the fever generated by the actual events.

The complete set of posters are no on view/on sale at Tate Britain until September  23rd. So buy now. They’re crap, but what an investment.