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Poster House - An Exciting New Museum Opening This Month...

Here in the UK, The Victoria and Albert (V&A) Museum holds over 10,000 posters, including the national collection. The British Film Institute also holds around 15,000 movie / film posters, covering the early 1900s to the present day.

Other notable museums, such as the Imperial War Museum, the London Transport Museum and the National Railway Museum, hold subject specific poster collections, but, as far as we are aware, there isn't a UK museum dedicated singularly to posters.

The same is true of the United States, but, thanks to the team opening New York's Poster House, that is about to change.

We reached out to Poster House’s curator, Angelina Lippert, to find out more…

Opening its doors on 20th June 2019, Poster House covers 15,000 square feet in New York's Flatiron District (home of many advertising agencies, printers and designers), dedicated to the impact, culture and design of posters, both vintage and contemporary.

An exterior mock up of the New York Poster HouseImage courtesy of the Poster House (posterhouse.org)

 

In an inspired move, a public promenade will run through the building linking West 23rd and 24th Streets, and, reflecting the street context where many posters are found.

Spearheading the project are three women, Poster House’s President Val Crosswhite, its Director Julia Knight, and, curator Angelina.

So, why a museum dedicated to posters? Perhaps because posters sit at the centre of a unique cross-road…

The Poster as Art or Artefact?

In the words of Angelina…

“Is the poster a work of art or an artifact? Where does it sit on the spectrum between art and design? The first answer is yes to both.

The poster is not high art. It was never meant to be housed in a museum or even held onto for posterity. Its intent is every bit as ephemeral and purposeful as today’s television commercials. And yet, the greatest poster artists managed to stretch the medium beyond the realm of mere advertising, creating images as beautiful as Manet’s Olympia or Monet’s Water Lilies.”

Exactly.

Take a look at the stunning movie poster for Audrey Hepburn’s “Green Mansions” and try and argue that Joseph Smith’s painting isn’t a fantastic work of art. Show anyone Roger Kastel’s beautiful poster for “The Empire Strikes Back” and it is evidently the work of an incredibly talented artist.

The same is true of the work of movie poster legends such as Drew Struzan and Richard Amsel, or the emerging contemporary ‘painterly’ poster artists, such as Paul Shipper or Kyle Lambert.

Yet, undoubtedly, the poster is an advertising medium… 

“Posters are also not art for art’s sake. ... They are methods of simple communication, able to be understood and digested quickly by the broadest possible audience. If the poster falls short of expressing this idea, then no amount of beauty will make it a good poster – it fails if it’s too complicated or confusing.”

The best movie posters become the quintessential essence of the film’s ‘brand’ in a single image –think of "Raiders of the Lost Ark", "E.T." or "Jaws", and it is likely the movie poster that you see first.

Consider a fantastically designed piece of furniture, perhaps an Eames chair. Whilst it is ultimately functional - it is for sitting on - it is also appreciated as a stunning piece of design, artistry and craftsmanship.

So it is with great posters. They are superb example of both function and art.

An architects impression of the New York Poster HouseImage courtesy of the Poster House (posterhouse.org)

The Poster as Mass Media or Personal Message?

Val, Poster House’s President writes of her own personal history with posters…

“Everyone seems to have had a poster that hung on their bedroom wall that spoke to their earliest and most passionate interests, or remembers a movie poster that gripped their imagination, or a political poster that woke them up to a cause.

There’s an immediacy and a democracy to posters—they speak to everyone. And yet, there is an intimacy, too, a private conversation happening at the same time that makes posters so easy to enjoy and to love."

So, we can have a deeply personal connection with a poster, perhaps for what it represents (the movie), or, its imagery (the art), but, they were printed in multiples, potentially in their thousands, and counter-intuitively, this can contribute to their rarity.

Angelina writes…

“Unlike a painting you see in a museum, a poster isn’t unique – hundreds or thousands of copies of a given image would have been printed and disseminated around a city or country, allowing for tens of thousands of viewers to come in contact with it before it would be destroyed through weather, vandalism, or simply by being covered by the next ad. Unlike the Mona Lisa that has survived hundreds of years, a poster would sometimes only be seen for a few days or even hours before it would disappear, most likely forever.”

Posters are a world-wide occurrence. Whilst Chéret is the father of the modern poster (see this earlier blog post), their roots can be traced to the ancient history of Egypt and Rome. Despite their ubiquity. They are temporal. So few are preserved.

For some pre-World War 2 films, only one example of a poster is known to exist. For others none. Even for a recent cultural phenomenon such as “Star Wars”, or, a 21st Century blockbuster such as "La La Land", original posters are relatively scarce

They were produced for the every-man. Many held a special place in our hearts. Yet, so few of their number still exist.

And that’s exactly why we do what we do. And, its exactly why we need museums, like Poster House, dedicated to the poster.

The inside of the NY Poster House museumImage courtesy of the Poster House (posterhouse.org)

 

With regards to movie / film posters, Angelina tells us…

“We actually do have extensive plans to exhibit movie posters along with all other manner of posters at Poster House. In October, we are hosting a three-month show dedicated to hand-painted Ghanaian movie posters from the 1990s. That will be our first film poster show. Then, the following spring/summer, we will be showcasing the art of Turkish soft-core pornographic film posters.”

Opening this month, you can find out more about Poster House here.

We're off to start planning a trip to the Big Apple!

 

Adam and Art of the Movies team.

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