Did you know Olympics gave out medals for art?

Even though this article is not on a practical business ideas that is happening in the creative industry, it is however reminds me of how art can be so intricately related to everything that seemingly has little to do with art at the first look. All you need to do is to look a little bit deeper, or further back in this case.

For the first four decades of competition, the Olympics awarded official medals for painting, sculpture, architecture, literature and music, alongside those for the athletic competitions. From 1912 to 1952, juries awarded a total of 151 medals to original works in the fine arts inspired by athletic endeavors. Now, on the eve of the 100th anniversary of the first artistic competition, even Olympics fanatics are unaware that arts, along with athletics, were a part of the modern games nearly from the start.

The founder of the Olympics, Baron Pierre de Coubertin saw art competition integral to his vision of the Olympics. “He was raised and educated classically, and he was particularly impressed with the idea of what it meant to be a true Olympian—someone who was not only athletic, but skilled in music and literature,” Stanton, the author of The Forgotten Olympic Art Competitions says. “He felt that in order to recreate the events in modern times, it would be incomplete to not include some aspect of the arts.”

1948 is the last year that Olympics gave out medals for art. There are two major reasons contributing to the discontinuance of art catagory. Firstly, many art world insiders viewed the competitions with distrust. “They didn’t want to have to compete, because it might damage their own reputations.” Stanton says. The fact that the events had been initiated by art outsiders, rather than artists, musicians or writers—and the fact that all entries had to be sport-themed—led many of the most prominent potential entrants to decide the competitions were not worth their time. Secondly, the new president of the International Olympic Committee, Avery Brundage, who has served in the position from 1952 to 1972, was a rigid supporter of amateur athletics (the ancient Olympics was envisioned to be competitions among amateurs rather than professionalism). Because artists inherently rely on selling their work for their livelihood—and because winning an Olympic medal could theoretically serve as a sort of advertisement for the quality of an artist’s work—Brundage took aim at the art competitions, insisting they represented an unwelcome incursion of professionalism. After heated debate, it was eventually decided that the art competitions would be scrapped after 1948.

Though Olympics has stopped giving out medals for art, it never stopped be a celebration of art. The inspiring architect of Olympics stadium, the breath taking opening ceremony, the songs, the paintings, the designs, the sculptures about the event have all link a grand sport gathering deeply with art. Afterall, Olympics are about the body. The most important part of the body brain is celebrated.

Source: Smithsonian


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