Rio Olympics: JR’s Athletes are Larger Than Life

The Olympics are always a good time for the world to celebrate art. This year’s Summer Games have allowed the world to see what Brazilian artists are capable of–from Tarsila do Amaral’s iconic painting Abaporu returning to Brazil for the duration of the Games to the Opening Ceremonies, there’s been plenty of art to soak in.


One of French artist JR's larger-than-life athletes looms--er, leaps--over the Rio skyline. Image c/o and The Art Newspaper.
One of French artist JR’s larger-than-life athletes looms–er, leaps–over the Rio skyline. Image c/o and The Art Newspaper.


Art and the Olympics doesn’t stop at officially-sanctioned art. Just in time for the opening ceremonies, French artist JR unveiled two gigantic site-specific pieces in Rio showing two athletes doing what they do best. According to The Art Newspaper, the two gigantic public pieces have “transformed” different parts of Rio’s skyline. JR’s two pieces–topping the Hilton Santos building and along the water near Barra da Tijuca, respectively–depict Sudanese high-jumper Mohamed Younes Idriss leaping over a building and an unidentified diver poised to jump into the sea through a massive sort of trompe l’oeil.


Image c/o and The Art Newspaper.


JR created the images by stretching printed fabric over scaffolding to create a transparent look. The artist, who has done site-specific work in both Paris and Rio previously (involving making the Louvre pyramid “disappear” and pasting hundreds of pictures of women’s faces on the walls of a Rio favela for his 2008 project Women are Heroes), has been experimenting with technique for over a year in order to get the desired effect, The Art Newspaper reports. Primarily known for his site-specific photography installations, the enigmatic French artist JR, whose identity remains a titillating “unconfirmed” (à la Banksy), is no stranger to turning heads. And his athletes are just another example of the artist-photographer’s versatility and desire to engage the public.


According to The Art Newspaper, JR’s work aims to honor Mohamed Younes Idriss, who just ended up not qualifying for the Rio Olympics. The 27-year-old athlete from Sudan who currently lives and trains in Cologne, Germany only just missed qualifying to compete. In addition, the gigantic works do what any good public art pieces might–bring people together.


Close-up of JR’s piece featuring Mohamed Younes Idriss leaping over a residential building. Image c/o The Telegraph and EPA.


No matter where you’re from, a larger-than-life image of a guy high-jumping a building, seemingly suspended in the air, is pretty cool. And isn’t a side goal of the Olympics to point out how we are all more alike than unalike as humans–despite the fact that some of us are crazy-good at jumping over things or diving perfectly into the water than others? 

JR’s work for the Rio Olympics ultimately does just that.


Find out more about the enigmatic JR here.

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