Whether you’re lucky enough to be attending the Olympics or you’re watching the world’s best athletes come together from the couch, you’ve probably familiarized yourself with a few larger-than-life competitors.
Names like Simone Biles, Yusra Mardini, and Katie Ledecky have likely come up over breakfast in the morning and before meetings in the afternoon. You’ve probably marveled at Michael Phelps’ 20th gold medal in an email thread between coworkers or with your spouse during dinner.
But what if these athletes (the smallest of whom is just under five feet tall) really were larger than life? Well, thanks to one French artist who goes by the name JR, we don’t have to imagine what that’d be like. As part of an ongoing installation, JR and his team built massive athletes who loom over Rio de Janeiro much in the way the achievements of their real-life counterparts will hang over our excited heads until August 21.
He didn’t just start creating these hulking pieces. In fact, he’s been at it for over a year.
He decided to create two works for this installation — one of a high jumper and one of a swimmer.
The high jumper was modeled after Sudanese athlete Mohamed Younes Idress.
The second piece was inspired by French swimmer Leonie Perrault, who is not competing in the games this year but is a highly respected athlete both in France and abroad.
Due to an injury, Mohamed Younes Idress could not compete. JR recognized the athlete’s Olympic-worthy abilities by turning him into a work of art.
As far as JR is concerned, the 2016 Olympic Games celebrate the beauty of diversity. For that reason, he wanted to bring his talents to Rio to celebrate alongside them.
“Eighty years ago, the Olympics happened in Berlin. Hitler wanted to use them to demonstrate the supremacy of the Aryan race,” he writes. “Today they will open in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, a ‘mixed race’ country.”
“Even though Brazil is going through political and economic turmoil and the necessity of the Games at this moment can spark controversy, the Olympic spirit will joyfully be welcomed by the people,” he continued.
These sculptures are monuments to the fact that we are all global citizens. Although the world is dragged down by violence and hatred, we get to celebrate for now.
If you’d like to learn more about JR’s work, be sure to follow him on Instagram.