the artist Baptiste Chebassier celebrates the 30,249 medalists in Olympic history

French artist Baptiste Chebassier has embarked on a meticulous work of art: writing by hand and in chronological order the names of the 30,249 Olympic medalists of the modern era. He hopes to see his work completed by July 26, for the kickoff of the 2024 edition in Paris.

Published on: 04/11/2024 – 2:22 p.m.

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It is a titanic task that Baptiste Chebassier has set himself: to write by hand, in chronological order, the names of the 30,249 Olympic medalists of the modern era. A monumental work that he hopes to see completed for the 2024 Olympics, which will take place from July 26 to August 11.

Entitled “Amateurs”, the project of this 27-year-old sports enthusiast was born three years earlier following the reading of an article in the newspaper L’Équipe and the discovery of the work of Roman Opalka. This Polish artist produced a work over a period of 46 years, from 1965 to his death in 2011, the objective of which was to question time since he painted the numbers which follow one another infinitely.

“My way of participating” in the Olympics

“This gesture symbolizes the time that I am ready to devote to this event. It is my way of participating in the celebration that Paris 2024 will be and which is 500 meters from my home,” explains Baptiste Chebassier, interviewed at home by Reuters in Saint-Ouen-sur-Seine (Seine-Saint-Denis).

According to his projections, the work should be 120 meters long with 12 separate rolls of paper with an average of 3,000 names each.

In total, the work should consist of 12 scrolls of 3,000 names each. © Noemie Olive, Reuters

At the start of his project, he devoted himself to his work one to two hours a day before increasing the pace over the past two months, after resigning from his position as an innovation consultant.

“We are no longer celebrating performance but by celebrating it all the same, we are not putting one person forward, we have 30,000 people who have dedicated part of their lives to pushing the limits of the human being , performance, excellence, repetition through their work, through effort,” he explains. “In itself, I write names, so it’s an activity that is very repetitive, sometimes boring, sometimes I hate it, sometimes I love it. A lot of my friends don’t understand.”

Baptiste Chebassier carefully writes down the names of all the medalists in the history of the modern Games. © Noemie Olive, Reuters

From name on paper to meeting

As he completes it, he sometimes takes the work out of the room in which he works to meet medal-winning athletes. He notably greeted on Tuesday in Aix-les-Bains (Savoie) the Frenchwoman Perrine Pelen, triple Olympic alpine ski medalist in 1980 and 1984, when registering her name.

“I am very honored to be among the names of all these medalists. It is an opportunity to reiterate how important an Olympic medal is,” declared Perrine Pelen.

The artist with medalist Perrine Pelen, triple Olympic alpine ski medalist in 1980 and 1984. © Cecile Mantovani, Reuters

“Meeting the athletes is experiencing a moment, it’s sharing a moment, it’s anchoring that name in reality,” says Baptiste Chebassier.

The artist is currently writing the names of medalists from the 1980s and hopes to complete his work before the start of the Olympic Games to continue day by day with the new athletes who will win honors in Paris.

“I wanted to add them (the Paralympic athletes), but the database does not exist. In any case, it is largely incomplete. But I am committed to doing it once we have created the database,” he specifies.

Baptiste Chebassier would like his fresco to be seen by the public and athletes but does not yet have an exhibition location.

With Reuters

Baptiste Chebassier surrounded by his work. © Noemie Olive, Reuters


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