Omer Arbel’s Olympic project

Despite continuous commercial and critical success, the commission that brought Omer Arbel to global attention was the medals for the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics.

The original design featured two disks held together by invisible magnets, which concealed a smaller pendant in the cavity so that the athletes could carry their public but also very private victory with them every day.

Each medal was completely unique as the shape was formed using a displaced wax technique. Wax was inserted into a rubber pocket controlled by a matrix of pins, using a different combination for each medal, and the shape was then cast in gold, silver and bronze.

Vancouver Olympic medal 2008
The initial concept for the Vancouver Olympic medal

Although The Vancouver Organizing Committee for the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games liked the uniqueness of each medal, the expense of the process plus the lack of reference to the Vancouver landscape, meant that it asked OAO to rethink the design.

The inside of the medal
The inside of the medal

The result was collaboration with aboriginal artist Corrine Hunt, who drew graphics that were applied to a 1m2 undulating surface. The individual medals were then punched out of sheet, greatly reducing the cost as only one mould was needed.

Although the new design had the additional symbolism that each winning athlete was part of an Olympic whole, it was far removed from Arbel’s original vision. ‘It’s part of life,’ he says genuinely. ‘It’s easy to get grumpy about these things but we’re not conceptual artists, we’re industrial designers. We don’t work in the theoretical world.’

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