Otis College Alum Alison Saar Selected to Create a Sculpture for Paris Olympics

News, Alumni | March 20, 2024

Otis College alumna Alison Saar

Alison Saar (’81 MFA Fine Arts) is the daughter of artists Betye Saar—a former instructor at Otis who, at 91, is still making and showing work—and Richard Saar, who introduced her to sculpture, the medium in which she primarily works. In her sculptures, multimedia pieces, and installations Saar addresses themes of race, gender, culture, and spirituality all while focusing on the African diaspora and Black female identity. 

Her work has been shown internationally, in solo and group exhibitions, including at the Fowler Museum at UCLA, The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, The Getty Center, and the Brooklyn Museum, among many others. She has been awarded several distinguished grants, honors, and residencies, including from the Joan Mitchell Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Guggenheim Foundation. She is represented by L.A. Louver in Los Angeles. 

Recently, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) announced its selection of Saar to create an artwork that will be displayed during the 2024 Summer Olympics and Paralympic Games in Paris. Saar was selected from a shortlist of eminent American artists, a gesture reinforcing the connection with the next Olympic Games being held in Los Angeles in 2028. Saar, who was born, raised, and resides in Los Angeles, will sustainably produce the work in France and will conceptually link the City of Lights with the City of Angels in the piece.

The IOC press release is below. 

Artist Alison Saar selected to create Olympic sculpture in Paris

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the City of Paris have chosen Alison Saar, a Los Angeles-based sculpture artist, to produce an artwork that will be installed in the French capital to honour the legacy of the Olympic and Paralympic Games Paris 2024.

Saar succeeds French artist Xavier Veilhan, who created The Audience (2021) for the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020.

The sculpture is an initiative of Olympic Art Visions, through which the IOC invites a renowned visual artist to create an original artwork inspired by sport and the Olympic values, to be presented in a publicly accessible space in the city hosting the Games.

The programme, unique to the Olympic Movement, builds connections between host cities through an international artistic community that symbolically “passes the torch” across editions of the Games – from Tokyo to Paris to Los Angeles.

It was in the spirit of Tokyo 2020 that French artist Xavier Veilhan’s work The Audience (2021) was permanently installed in the heart of the Japanese capital.

To reinforce the connection with the next Olympic Games, Los Angeles 2028, a winner was chosen from among a shortlist of leading American artists invited to submit proposals.

An advisory board composed of representatives from the IOC, City of Paris officials, the Paris 2024 Organising Committee and members of the international artistic community unanimously selected Saar, a decision that was confirmed by the Mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo, and IOC President Thomas Bach.

Chosen for the strength of her proposal, her commitment to the Olympic values and the Paris 2024 vision, together with her desire to sustainably produce the work in France, Saar’s sculpture is set to link the City of Lights with the City of Angels.

In the spirit of Paris 2024, her piece will focus on themes of international diversity, equality and the Olympic principle of promoting a peaceful society concerned with the preservation of human dignity.

It is also important for her work to “pay tribute to the rich and diverse communities of modern-day France,” said Saar. Every aspect of the commission will be produced in France under her supervision.

“By employing French craftspeople, we are not only reducing our costs and our carbon footprint, we also are supporting local talents and suppliers,” she said.

The sculpture will be officially unveiled and inaugurated in Paris on Olympic Day.

About Alison Saar

Saar was born and raised in an artistic family, and has been primarily making sculpture for most of her life. Her rich body of work examines issues of justice and compassion, focusing on people who have been underrepresented and marginalised in the past and the present.

Saar’s numerous pieces have been exhibited in prominent museums and art venues across the United States, such as the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Fine Arts Houston and the Brooklyn Art Museum. Among her highly regarded works is the first public monument to a Black woman, Harriet Tubman, in New York City. The Olympic sculpture will be her first public project outside the United States.

Alison Saar is represented by L.A. Louver in Los Angeles.

About the Olympic Museum

The Olympic Museum is the international arts and culture division of the IOC and home to the world’s largest and most complete collection of Olympic heritage, including artefacts, archives, images, books and film. Located in the Olympic Capital of Lausanne, Switzerland, its international exhibitions and programmes connect people of all ages with the diverse stories, art, history and culture of the global phenomenon that is the Olympic Games. Through educational initiatives inspired by the Olympic values of respect, friendship and excellence, the Olympic Museum brings together athletes, visitors, students, artists and an affiliated network of museums across the world. For more information, please visit olympics.com/museum.

Main image: Alison Saar (’81 MFA Fine Arts) tours her L.A. Louver solo exhibition, Uproot, to Otis College students, faculty, and staff. 

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