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Otto (“Otl”) Aicher is recognized as a leading graphic designer and typographer of the 20th century. He created many well-known logos (e.g., Lufthansa) as well as the Rotis typeface. His most outstanding achievement remains the holistic design concept for the Olympic Games in Munich 1972. His political mission in this ambitious project was to present Germany as an open, friendly and transparent democratic country, only 36 years after the Berlin Olympics, which had been misused as a propaganda instrument by the Nazi regime.

In pursuit of this goal, Aicher created a light color palette of white, silver, yellow, orange, blue and green, deliberately omitting red and black. This was inspired by the colors of the Bavarian summer, but people soon referred to them as the rainbow, which led to the widely used, though unofficial, expression “Rainbow Games”. His design concept became a big success, despite the tragic events that occurred during these games.

Aicher was born in Ulm in 1922 and died in an accident in 1991. In his youth, he was closely related to the German resistance, notably the “Weiße Rose”. This experience shaped his entire career as a graphic designer, starting with an educational project to support the transition towards democracy in post-war Germany.

Together with his wife, Inge Scholl, he became a driving force behind the creation of the Hochschule für Gestaltung (HfG) Ulm, which operated in the same vein as the Bauhaus until its closure by political decision in 1968. This influential design school was strongly supported by many artists, e.g. Max Bill, who designed the buildings, and Josef Albers, who came back to Germany from America as a teacher, just to name a few. 

The entire design concept of the Munich Games was deeply rooted in Aicher’s technical and human experience gained at the HfG Ulm. It was developed over several years by a large team based in Munich, with significant contributions by 75 selected design experts under his leadership. The result still stands out by today’s standards for its striking consistency across all media and topics covered.

On the occasion of his 100th anniversary, many public events took place throughout Germany last year. This first exhibition in Brussels shows selected aspects of his work, also placing them into the wider artistic context of its time. It is being presented in kind collaboration with Galerie Brandt, Munich.

The Sports Series contains vibrant representations of selected Olympic disciplines in rarely shown screen print quality. Each of the exhibited works is a unique prototype created prior to the finally selected color combination. They are all based on blurred sports photographs modified with colour separation technique in a very complex and costly process at that time.

The Pictograms look very familiar today and are indeed widely used, not just in sports, but also in everyday life. They were developed by Aicher’s team and groundbreaking by then, showing athletes in action in a minimal design. They are all unique pieces hand signed by Gerhard Joksch. 

The Artist Series presents specially commissioned screen prints of some of Aicher’s close colleagues at HfG Ulm (e.g., Albers, Bill) as well as other important contemporary artists of that period (Soulages, Wesselmann, Vasarely etc). All works shown are limited editions, some of them being numbered and signed by the artists.

Text: Robert Klotz


Rivoli Building
Chaussée de Waterloo 690, Brussels, Belgium

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