What role can art play in shaping the future? This question is at the heart of Art and Society 1972–2022–2072: The starting point for this book is the prominent role of art and culture in the context of planning for an international sporting event: the 20th Olympic Games in Munich in 1972. The interdisciplinary project was begun on the occasion of the 50th anniversary in 2022; it activates nearly forgotten ideas, questions them, and brings their relevance into play for the current role of art in real and digital public spaces.

Art and Society 1972–2022–2072

Since the advent of modernity, art has been associated with freedom, provocation and courage. In 1972, art was to unfold its potential as an emancipatory and creative force: The initiators at the time were pursuing a vision of the Olympic Games of 1972 as the face of a cosmopolitan Munich, a modern democratic Germany, and a community-building Gesamtkunstwerk of architecture, design, art, and culture that would open up new experiences and spaces for everyone. From Otl Aicher’s concept for the graphic design, which replaced the pathos-laden colors of the participating nations with the cheerfulness of the spectrum of the rainbow, by way of the art and architecture for the Olympics landscape. As well as the official cultural programs of the Olympic Summer and the “Spielstrasse (Play Street), a daily cultural programs near the sports facilities by international artists of all kinds, planned both as a “contrasting, supplementing, entertaining artistic contribution to the athletic games” and as a “critical commentary”. The international avant-garde of the time, including Walter de Maria, Gerhard Richter, Blinky Palermo, Andy Warhol and Dan Flavin, enthusiastically developed revolutionary concepts. Many of these remained drafts. 

Kunst und Gesellschaft 1972–2022–2072 | Dia- und Filmprojektionen im Multivisionszentrum der Spielstraße


The tragic terrorist attack on Israeli athletes on September 5, 1927 put an abrupt end to the playfully critical actions of the “Play Street”, yet after long discussions German artist Otto Piene used art to project a small sign of connection and hope during the closing ceremonies of the games. His Regenbogen (Rainbow)a monumental sky sculpture, 460 meters long and 5 meters wide, consisting of five StratoFilm tubes filled with helium—radiated orange, yellow, green, indigo, and violet from as high as 125 meters above the Olympic Lake.

Art an Society 1972–2022–2072


This publication is divided into two parts and an intermezzo, which takes us to the present. The Intermezzo, a selection of photographs by Jörg Koopmann, conveys scenes, backgrounds, and atmosphere of the 2022 Festival of the Games, Sports, and the Arts in the Olympic Park in Munich. More than 250 participants made reference to the events surrounding the Olympic Games of 1972 in performances, concerts, films, digital projects, games, and installations created under the paradigms of the twenty-first century. The topics of sports, public space, participation, commemoration, democracy, the future, society, media, inclusion, and sustainability were examined in a playful yet critical manner. They inspired a critical-reflective and simultaneously playful examination of the past and our present, and developed visionary designs for future scenarios and worlds 

Art and Society 1972–2022–2072

In Part 2, more than forty theorists, curators, and scholars, such as Clémentine Deliss, Hans Ulrich Obrist, Cao Yu, Pedro Reyes and Goshka Macuga, look at contemporary artworks in order to develop ideas and thoughts about the role of art in the society of the future, and wrote texts on the issue: “Think about the future: What work of art, design, or innovative projects from the context of art, design, and architecture already reflects aspects that will be especially important in the society of the future?” These essays are complemented by contributions by artists and designers from all over the world. They were asked to select one of their works for the book and to think about issues such as: What role does the cultural space in which you grew up play in your work? What specifically do you want your art to anticipate or achieve for the society of the future?

Art and Society 1972–2022–2072

The book is published in an English and a German edition and is also available as an ePub and ePDF. Art and Society 1972–2022–2072 was conceived by the art historian Elisabeth Hartung and edited by her together with the Munich cultural advisor Anton Biebl.

Image credit: Dia- und Filmprojektionen im Multivisionszentrum der Spielstraße Foto: Lore Springorum-Höllweg, saai| Archiv für Architektur und Ingenieurbau, KIT, Werkarchiv Behnisch & Partner

Veröffentlicht am: 18.01.2024