Judging the #MuseumOlympics, a Twitter Battle Between the World’s Museums

Just because you’re not a sports person doesn’t mean you can’t get into the Olympic spirit! A few days ago, curators from museums around the world started cheekily posting sports-themed images from their collections on Twitter, and labeling them with the hashtag #MuseumOlympics. Other museums caught on, and the art world had a real competition on its hands. Today, Kelly Crow of the Wall Street Journal, a favorite of ours among the art-world Twitterati, weighed in and nominated Myron’s “The Discus-Thrower” at the British Museum.

However — thusfar, no one has actually declared any winners. While we love the cultural exchange global sporting events promote, at the end of the day, it’s a competition and someone needs to win. Therefore, ARTINFO took the time to judge. And thus, we present to you the winners in four different categories (plus a sportsmanship award!):


The Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh wins for entering a real Olympian, Andy Warhol’s Polaroid photo of Muhammad Ali from 1977. Unfortunately, because of the polaroid’s focus on Ali’s boxing stance, it just nips Carnegie Museum of Art’s photo of him holding his mother by Charles “Teenie” Harris at the line (there was some smack-talking going on there, we should note). The Oakland Museum of California gets the bronze; it entered a real Olympic track suit (though no runner to go with it), from former Oakland resident Archie Williams. A teammate of the history-making Jesse Owens, Williams wore the suit at the 1936 Berlin Games, and won a gold medal in the 400 meters.


The Art Gallery of Ontario pulls into the early lead with its 19th-century Inuit “Kayaker,” but SFMOMA’s Robert Rauschenberg featuring an athlete mid-dive pulls in front of it.  Unfortunately, this is the internet, and even museums should know that the cats always win. The gold goes to Harvard Art Museums’s “Untitled (two cats in a boxing ring wearing gloves)” (1950).


Miami’s Wolfsonian-FIU museum put up a nice fight in the team competition, where museums pool their collections to decide a winner. It got extra points for its needlework of a tennis player. But ultimately, LACMA was deemed the clear winner by sheer depth of its Pinterest board of fantastic sports-themed works.

After being relegated for tweeting a search result from their website, in marketing-speak, no less (lame) — “#MuseumOlympics Highlight: Explore archery through the Met’s collections!” — the Met gets bronze for tweeting a link to all of the archery-themed works in its vast collection (we later found its Pinterest board, but its 10 works still can’t hold a candle to LACMA’s 36 — tough loss, we know).


In the totally random category, the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago gets the gold for its totally off-the-wall podium featuring a pumpkin, cabbage, and three pitchers (a Haim Steinbach work).

The SFO Museum is quite a bit behind, but still pulls out a silver medal for the “synchronized fabulousness” of this unidentified photo (although we’re sure that the bloggers are going to be all over the blatant sexism of those outfits). And SFMOMA gets the bronze for its photo of London-themed cupcakes by photographer Martin Parr.

And, the sportsmanship award goes to the Morgan Library, which posted an elephant hug painting from its collection, under the tweet, “It’s ok, not everyone can be a winner at the #MuseumOlympics! If your team is struggling, hug it out http://bit.ly/N1LNgJ

Shane Ferro