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Mika Ninagawa, “Higher than the Rainbow” (Paralympics) (all images courtesy of Tokyo 2020)

It might still be cold outside, but the warm-up to the 2020 summer Olympics is already underway. On Tuesday, January 7, 20 posters to commemorate the upcoming Tokyo Olympics premiered at the Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo where they will be on display through February 16. Twelve of the posters focus on various Olympic Games while the remaining eight highlight sporting events in the Paralympic Games. Admission to see the Olympic posters in the museum lobby is free. 

Chris Ofili, “The Games People Play” (Olympics)

The purpose of the posters is to raise awareness of the upcoming games while also “leaving cultural and artistic legacies for the individual Olympic and Paralympic Games,” says the Tokyo 2020 site. No two posters look remotely alike, as the artists and designers tapped for the collection vary greatly in their styles. For instance, Naoki Urasawa’s stark black-and-white poster is made to look like a page out of a manga book but looks very different than the colorful manga poster by Hirohiko Araki. Shoko Kanazawa uses a bold and showy example of calligraphy, while Koji Kakinuma’s interpretation looks more abstract. Chris Ofili’s somber Games People Play is quite different than photographer Viviane Sassen’s work that catches athletes in mid-air and encircles parts of the photo with vibrant colors. 

Naoki Urasawa, “Now it’s your turn!” (Olympics)

For a deeper dive into the history of Olympic posters, the Olympics Studies Centre has a collection of works dating back to 1896. The Summer Olympics are set to begin on July 24 and the Paralympics will follow on August 25.

Takashi Homma, “TOYO CHILDREN” (Olympics)

Philippe Weisbecker, “Olympic Stadium” (Olympics)

Tomoyuki Shinki, “Offense No.7” (Paralympics)

Taku Satoh, “Olympic Cloud” (Olympics)

Daijiro Ohara, “flow line” (Olympics)

Koji Kakinuma, “Open” (Paralympics)

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Monica Castillo

Monica Castillo is a writer and critic based in New York City. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, Washington Post, Village Voice,, Remezcla, the Guardian,...