Alibaba Digital Art to Greet Fans at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics

As thousands of people are going to arrive in Tokyo in July for the Olympic Games 2020, the experience for a lot of them will begin as soon as they get out of the plane, thanks to a new idea from Alibaba Group.

On Thursday, Alibaba, a Worldwide Partner for the Olympics, unveiled its Alibaba Cloud Gallery, a creative cooperation with young Japanese artists in order to bring together sports, technology, and culture in several digital installations at Narita airport in Tokyo.

According to Alibaba, the artwork, which is set to appear on all screens at the airport, mixxes elements of Japanese culture with images of athletes in order to create a memorable first impression for the travelers that are going to attend the Games. Alibaba Cloud will help the artists be able to work with the data-heavy visual elements necessary for the installations by providing high-performance data intelligence.

This is the newest creative initiative from Alibaba’s partnership with the International Olympic Committee, with the aim of digitizing the Games and attracting a new fans generation. For Alibaba Group, that means using creativity and technology to engage young people and give Japanese artists, who will be on display at the Alibaba Cloud Gallery, their own stage on which to be seen.

The art installations also include the latest launched Alibaba-Olympic Games partnership logo for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. The logo with Alibaba below the Olympic Rings means to show the group’s commitment to best support the Olympic Games with its cloud technology, expertise in digital commerce, as well as its efforts to make the Games more appealing to a younger fan generation.

Alibaba Cloud’s country manager in Japan, Unique Song, said that the Group would continue to support young Japanese artists even after the artwork exhibition is over by introducing artificial intelligence-driven tools along with multimedia solutions like smart-video editing and 3D modeling, which have been used in the Alibaba ecosystem.

‘Concrete Genie’: A kid’s game about the joys of art (part 1)

Concrete Genie’s optimistic storyline, akin to an old after-school television special, offers a lesson in empathy. It’s a bit too straightforward and unironic for a sourpuss like me but I’d like to think that it may help some kids come to terms with the fact that children can be cruel to each other for reasons that aren’t immediately obvious. Since “Concrete Genie” is a kid’s game (and it’s not made by Nintendo) I wasn’t betting I’d play through it but I was disarmed by its novel gameplay which, for the most part, is oriented more around the creation and problem-solving than confrontation.

At the beginning of the game, we are introduced to Ash, an artistic kid who loves drawing fanciful-looking creatures with horns and plumage in his notebook. In spite of his mom’s wishes, Ash elects to while away a day in the young ghost town Denska. The small island’s economy collapsed after a tanker spill polluted its coastal waters. Exacerbating the once-thriving fishing town’s woes are gnarled vines that have infested the area, blanketing walls and clogging up machinery. This mysterious substance, which is colloquially referred to as the “darkness” is a byproduct of negative mental energy. Admittedly, at no point did I become interested in the story.

Ash’s day is upset after a group of unruly children snatch his notebook and scatter its pages. The kids then push Ash onto a tram that goes to a tiny island guarded by a purportedly spooky lighthouse. Ash doesn’t let the kids’ warnings get to him. Without much ado, he sets about exploring. Inside the lighthouse, Ash discovers one of the pages of his notebook on the floor. Dejected, he hangs his head in despair when Luna, the creature from his notebook, miraculously comes to life on the wall. Projecting her power from the wall, Luna mends Ash’s torn notebook and gives him a magic brush.

The Eight best sporting artworks (part 3)

6. Dynamism of a Cyclist

Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice

Racing along, wheels spinning, head down, knees pumping, covering immense distances at high speed: how to depict a champion cyclist in action? Any 2D image seems to limit the sense of ongoing motion, and this wasn’t good enough for the Italian futurists. Arguably the best of them, Umberto Boccioni follows the French photographer Etienne-Jules Marey, whose split-second shots of soldiers sprinting were recorded on the same picture, in showing past, present, and future at the same time. Umberto Boccioni‘s cyclist, an overlapping sequence of stop-start instants, did the same thing, maybe more legibly, with a little dog running along on a leash.

  1. The Discobolus

British Museum, London

The stunning Discobolus, a classical athlete who is compressing all his power into one fling of the discus, is one of the most famous images from the ancient world. This statue is a Roman copy of the lost bronze original, which is attributed to the sculptor Myron c470-440 BC. The moment is so fleeting that it could be scarcely observed as a still form, yet the sculptor transforms it into a monument of judgment, balance, and athleticism. Discus-throwing was the first element of the pentathlon, regarded as a feat of grace and athleticism. However, this copy has the head looking away wrongly from the discus.

  1. The Reverend Robert Walker  (1755 – 1808) Skating on Duddingston Loch

Scottish National Gallery, Edinburgh

The Reverend Robert Walker is an ideal Olympic candidate: a founder member and brilliant amateur of the Edinburgh Skating Club. The most famous painting of Raeburn shows Walker sweeping on one leg across Duddingston loch and yet in full motion. It is the portrait like an action shot. The figure cuts a dark diagonal through the grey light with his blades etching criss-cross lines on the ice, which perfectly mimicked in the paint. Walker was also a member of the Royal Company of Archers.


The eight best sporting artworks (part 2)

  1. Pulcinella and the Tumblers, 1797, by Tiepolo

Museo del Settecento Veneziano, Venice

Those traveling gymnasts are putting on a show in 18th century in Venice, where Tiepolo painted the scene as a fresco. Pulcinella refers to the hook-nosed trickster in a black mask, a Commedia del’arte figure somewhere between Punch and Harlequin, which is responsible for turning the world upside down. This is exactly what these gymnasts are enacting with all of their springy athleticism. For what Tiepolo depicts is the ability of the gymnast to walk on one’s hands meanwhile appearing to tumble all around the place and to topple while keeping one’s balance.

4. The Biglin Brothers Turning the Stake, 1873, painted by Thomas Eakins

Cleveland Art Museum

The Biglin Brothers Turning the Stake commemorates America’s first pair-oared sculling race, which was held on the Schuykill River in Philadelphia in 1872. The painting shows the Biglin brothers turning the stake with John pushing his oar and Barney pulling his to create the gliding movement that was repeated in Eakins’s beautiful composition. The Biglin brothers are winning as their opponents are still rowing towards their flag in the distance. The picture well celebrates their team spirit and closeness. The great realist Eakins painted from personal experience when he was a dedicated oarsman on the very same river, too.

5. A Rally, 1885, Sir John Lavery

Glasgow Museums Resource Centre

Lawn tennis was quite new when the young woman in Sir John Lavery’s painting A Rally hit the ball back across the net. The Anecdote has it that Major Walter Clopton Wingfield started playing outdoors with vulcanized rubber balls in London in 1874 and Sir John Lavery, the Irish-born painter, got the bug on his return from Paris only a few years later. His painting emphasized on the woman in her hopelessly impractical but fetching dress, dramatized her energy and concentration. Sir John Lavery also painted some tennis scenes in Scotland, each regarded pioneering, rather like the player herself.

The eight best sporting artworks (part 1)

Let’s enjoy the art of physical exercise, from the famous Scottish skating minister to Rousseau’s footballers and Manet’s racehorses…

  1. The Races at Longchamps, 1867, by Edouard Manet

Art Institute of Chicago

During the Second Empire (1852-70), horse racing enjoyed a revival and the Longchamps track was built on the banks of the Seine near the Bois de Boulogne, a park on the outskirts of Paris. Being opened in 1857, it is still one of the leading thoroughbred racetracks in the world up to now. In 1863, Edouard Manet began to plan a large, horizontal work which would convey the dynamism of its races and the bustle of its crowds. Manet ultimately abandoned this panoramic composition; however, the smaller variant of the Art Institute retains its gist in more concentrated form.

The Races at Longchamps is startling as a pictorial conception. Manet, a keen visitor to the Longchamps track, records the last moments of a race, showing the thundering horses as a single vignette, separated from the spectators just by a fragile fence and raising clouds of dust. The race is so fast that the crowd’s heads are merging into a blur while turning to follow.

Unlike traditional sporting artists, always showing races from the side, Manet composed the scene so that the throng of horses thunders straight toward the viewer.

  1. The Football Players, 1908, by Henri Rousseau

Guggenheim Museum, New York

Henri Rousseau’s artwork The Football Players is a primitivism style oil painting that was created on canvas. In the present, it is located at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York.

In 1908, The Football Players was created to show modern times instead of historical images. The painting features a landscape with rich colors in the background and trees with four football players running on a path, tossing around the ball. They are wearing striped pajamas, having smiles on their faces and each of them has a handlebar mustache.


The relationship between sport and art


Sport and art seem to be very different disciplines. Is there any connection between them?

When being young, Roald Bradstock had an interest in both sport and art. Later, he became an Olympic javelin thrower, who represented Great Britain in the 1984 and 1988 Olympics, and also gained a degree in art. However, he explained that these activities were very different and not very compatible on day two of the Peace and Sports Forum in Monaco

This lack of compatibility of these activities caused him some difficulties. He spent years struggling with being both an athlete and an artist – both two disciplines take a lot of time and energy.

However, that has changed now. Nicknamed as “the Olympic Picasso”, Roald Bradstock produces creative colorful representations of equipment and depictions of sporting scenes.

His attitude changed around the year 2000 when he took part in a competition held by the United States Olympic Committee. “Struggle for Perfection”, his painting, was chosen as the winner and then featured in the Olympic Museum in Switzerland.

He did more research and discovered that co-founder of the modern Olympic Games Pierre de Coubertin was an artist. Coubertin himself designed the Olympic rings and also won a poetry competition in 1912.

Mark Spitz, nine-time Olympic swimming champion, one of Bradstock’s idols, was a painter. Muhammed Ali and Pele used to paint, too.

You could find further connections between sport and art if you look at major sporting events. Tickets are sold not only for the sporting events themselves but also for the opening and closing ceremonies. For example, the Super Bowl contains a heavily anticipated half-time show.

Bradstock realized that art is everywhere in sport – logos, mascots, typography, medals, and cups – all have to be designed by someone. These discoveries changed his viewpoint and he started to combine sport and art in his life.

He painted his outfits, javelins and javelin runways. He threw all kinds of objects and broke some records – “some official, some unofficial and some highly questionable”. He became famous for his eccentric outfits that people started to want to know what he would wear, do, and throw next.

Now, he believes that sport and art are perfect partners. They can be a powerful combination to be used in advocacy and development programmes.

“Combining sport and art in a new way is a fantastic tool. They are two universal languages to create platform to unite everyone for peace.”