WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. - The Williams College Museum of Art is reopening for the first time since the pandemic began with a new exhibition focusing on the art of the 1972 summer Olympics in Munich.
“Germany was kind of trying to shift its image into the more democratic western context, or West Germany I should specify,” said guest curator Elissa Watters, who created the exhibition. “The graphic design scheme that they came up with was really incredible.”
The exhibition highlights the contemporary style of the games’ art, and how it goes hand-in-hand with West Germany’s goal of distancing itself from the Nazi regime.
The museum wanted to run the exhibition at the same time as the Tokyo Olympics, so visitors could make connections from the art to the competitions they’re watching each night.
“We’re hoping that will give people a little bit more of an in-depth insight into what’s kind of behind the scenes in all Olympic games,” said senior curator of American and European art Kevin Murphy. “The Tokyo Olympics, they have a similar design team.”
In addition to posters and tickets, the exhibition features the work of artists from around the world who were commissioned for the games, including a particularly striking piece depicting African-american sprinters by artist Jacob Lawrence.
“We think that he was thinking a lot about Jesse Owens and a lot about the sort of history of African Americans at the Olympic games,” said Murphy. “And, in a lot of ways, he was thinking about the black athlete and their role on the international stage.”
For Watters, the exhibition has a broader message. She hopes people will see how art can be used as propaganda, and re-evaluate what propaganda means.
“Is it always bad? I don’t think it is,” said Watters. “I think we kind of can’t live without it. You have to have some sort of hope. I guess that’s another crux of it, hope and what that means and how we convey it in the visual arts.”
The museum is open daily from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., and the Olympic art exhibition is on display through Aug. 15.