Peter Phillips was commissioned to create one of twenty-eight posters to advertise the Munich Olympic Games of 1972. Pop art contemporaries such as Allen Jones and David Hockney contributed to the collection and attended the opening ceremonies with Phillips. These posters were the first of their kind, immortalizing many cultural icons through the convergence of sport and art, and setting a precedent for artistic contributions in Games to come.
Phillips’ print incorporates literal references of the time and place, including a hurdler with the number 72, and colors of the German flag and Olympic logo. As with the entire collection of art supporting the officially named “Happy Games,” the Hurdler expressed hope and pride in a new and modern Germany. Tragically, the air of optimism turned disastrous after Palestinian zealots murdered 12 hostages in what is now known as the “Munich Massacre”.
When asked what his paintings signify, Phillips responds, “different things to different people of course.” This couldn’t hold truer for Hurdler, which has assumed the responsibility for a spectrum of emotions connected to competition, victory, loss, nationalism and religious fervor. The Hurdler is one of many of Phillips’ works that memorializes a specific time, culture and place while
taking on new meaning for observers based on evolving context.