Vancouver Olympics replacing art with advertising?


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The opening festivities of the Winter Olympics get underway in Vancouver in a few hours, and I’ve begun to wonder whether they’ll count as popular performance art or just plain old advertising. Recent news reports suggest the latter.

A few months back a simple, graffiti-style painting on a piece of plywood affixed to the front of the Crying Room gallery downtown was ordered removed, apparently for its critical take on the Olympic Games. Artist Jesse Corcoran, who works at a homeless shelter, had painted the Olympic rings as four frowning faces and one smiley face, in order to express his view that the sporting event is a waste of funds during a time of widespread economic distress.


After a flurry of bad press, official apologies were offered to the artist.

This week the stakes were raised. Brad Cran, Vancouver’s civic poet laureate, withdrew from participation in Olympic cultural events because he said he was denied artistic freedom:

‘I was offered time on one of the celebration stages where I would be allowed to read poems that corresponded to themes as provided to me by an Olympic bureaucrat,’ Cran wrote on his blog. He said artists in the Cultural Olympiad had to agree not to make any negative remarks about the Games or their sponsors.

Cran also wrote that ‘the muzzle clause’ came at a time when the provincial government announced its plans to cut arts funding by as much as 90%.

Vancouver officials, it seems, are confusing art with advertising, poetry with promotion.

-- Christopher Knight

Follow Times art critic Christopher Knight at KnightLAT on Twitter.