"that’s what I love about art: completing the story of a work on your own"

In the fall of 2015, the International Olympic Committee approached me to be an artist in residence in Rio de Janeiro. I had dreamed of using the city as a 3-D playground for years and saw this as my opportunity to finally do so.

I decided to do giant sculptures of young athletes who are training to be professionals. I had complete artistic freedom and chose three people who had never participated in the Games: a French triathlete, a Sudanese high jumper and a Brazilian diver.
Once the pieces were finished, I did not include an explanation for them or my signature. I wanted the project to be as accessible as possible and left it open to people’s interpretation. That’s what I love about art: completing the story of a work on your own.
I saw a lot of people take photos of the sculptures, and many posted their reactions on social media. But two men went further than the rest and climbed the tallest sculpture, which soars nearly 280 feet atop an abandoned apartment building. They leaped off it with parachutes and filmed the descent. Afterward, I learned they had wanted to jump from that site before, but it wasn’t until my sculpture appeared that the structure became high enough. — JR
The works of art that were among the most discussed of the year were monumental, historical and environmental. A lake-spanning installation by Christo and Jeanne-Claude, JR’s billboard-size artworks at the Olympics and a replica of one of Syria’s most prized archaeological treasures, a Roman arch that stood in Palmyra, all filled in blank spaces, reminding us of what was missing or what we hadn’t yet explored. Here, the creators explain their work.

Unnamed Work

As one of the first artists in residence for the Olympic Games, the French artist JR installed three massive sculptures in Rio this year. Each depicted a young, little-known athlete frozen in action, with enormous scaffolding that served artistic and utilitarian purposes propping up the monumental works.


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