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Competition or exhibition ? : the Olympic arts and cultural policy rhetoric / Chris Ingraham

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Ingraham, Chris

Though they are widely forgotten today, the Modern Olympic Games once offered competitive medals for art. This tradition, which lasted through the seven Summer Olympic Games held from 1912 to 1948, found artists competing for gold much as athletes do now. These artists represented their nation in judged competitive events showcasing artistic works. In its initial form, the ‘pentathlon of the muses,’ as it was called, included competitive events in architecture, musical composition, sculpture, painting and literature. This paper considers the history of these arts competitions and their eventual demise as a study in cultural policy, arguing that no understanding of cultural policy is sufficient unless it considers the rhetorical factors that contribute to its formation.

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