The Hobby of Collecting: the 1984 Summer Olympics

The Hobby of Collecting: the 1984 Summer Olympics

There is always more to be had; collecting is a lifelong pursuit. In this series, cultural commentator Chris Black speaks to people about what they obsess over, search for and surround themselves with.
There is always more to be had; collecting is a lifelong pursuit. In this series, cultural commentator Chris Black speaks to people about what they obsess over, search for and surround themselves with.
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Photography by Cobey Arner

H assan Rahim (@hassanrahim) is a NYC-based art director, artist and designer originally from California. He draws inspiration from a myriad of subcultures to create work that is heavy in symbolism and emotion. Those attributes merge with Rahim’s own, clever sense of humor to create a signature visual language.

Why did you start collecting this '84 Los Angeles Olympic memorabilia, what appealed to you most about it?

The [Los Angeles] Riots. I wanted to understand what was part of the social catalyst that started the LA Riots. I was born after the Olympics happened, and you know the LA Riots were a big deal, but it's kind of this snowball effect from the Olympics happening and then Los Angeles wanting to clean up to make itself a world presentable city. Then they started Operation Hammer, which was a gang sweep, basically racial profiling.

All these things just snowballed into what essentially became the LA Riots. It's funny because the Olympics is this worldly event and the '84 identity was so colorful, it's the most bright, colorful Olympics identity in history. It was parallel to the crack epidemic, and I was fascinated by that.

"It's funny because the Olympics is this worldly event and the '84 identity was so colorful, it's the most bright, colorful Olympics identity in history. It was parallel to the crack epidemic, and I was fascinated by that."
Hassan Rahim
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Photography by Cobey Arner

I'm sure part of it is how visually appealing objects from this period are, and how it could inspire your work.

For sure, I think that I was also obsessed with the identity. The designer, Deborah Sussman, passed away a couple years ago. She was the creative director and spearheaded the whole identity, and one of the pieces I have in my collection is the original style guide, the brochure that shows the full design language of the Olympics. The columns, the pedestals, the colorways, the flags, it was just so wild and funky and eighties and kind of Memphis-y. I loved it, and it encapsulates that time so well. It's a period piece.

"The columns, the pedestals, the colorways, the flags, it was just so wild and funky and eighties and kind of Memphis-y. I loved it, and it encapsulates that time so well. It's a period piece."
Hassan Rahim
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Photography by Cobey Arner

What was the first thing you got that really blew your mind, kind of, "Oh wow, I'm down a rabbit hole now?"

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Photography by Cobey Arner

I think it was the target. Have you seen that piece of mine at Mohawk General Store?

Yeah, definitely. I actually saw that show at HVW8 in Los Angeles.

So, that piece is called Operation Hammer, which is named after the Rampart District scandal. That target is an original archery pad from the ‘84 Olympic Games. I went to this estate sale, and this lady said, "You know my father just passed away. We're going to sell the house soon," and he worked for the Olympic Committee, so a lot of the weirder stuff I got was from that estate sale.

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Photography by Cobey Arner

Did you find a lot of this stuff locally, because you lived in Los Angeles?

Yeah, totally. Craigslist, estate sales, people just have stuff like this! I set up an alert for LA Olympics on Craigslist and eBay, and then I just started sniping stuff. But even on eBay – I would buy it on eBay, and they'd be in Pasadena so I'd just be like, "Hey, let me come pick it up," and then from there I'd find more.

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Photography by Cobey Arner

I love it. When you see it all together, it's so powerful and visually arresting.

Totally. And then you start to see what the breadth of this stuff is, this is a tiny fraction of what they actually made to promote and to support the actual ceremonies. Some of it's random. The flag is wild. It's a cool-ass flag.

Images from left to right: Photography by Cobey Arner .

Now was this stuff even expensive, or was it more about the search?

It's more about finding it. There's a bumper sticker from a '76 Gas Station that was five bucks, and then some of the stuff, some of the posters, people know what the posters are, but some people don't. I've never paid more than like $40 or $50 bucks for any one thing in this collection, except for maybe that poster, the one that actually says, "LA ‘84," in big colorful letters, that one was maybe $100 because that's the poster.

And then the one with the running legs is the April Greiman poster. She's a really famous designer, but that one's not as expensive because that one was sold as merchandise. So, you can buy that as a commemorative poster. There's stuff that was produced more widely and stuff that wasn't. Honestly, I’ve never spent too much money on anything.

This piece is part of an ongoing Sotheby's series in which we explore the enduring allure of and obsession with collecting as a hobby. If you're interested in taking part in this series, please reach out to Sotheby's Multimedia Producer Brynn Wallner (brynn.wallner@sothebys.com).

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