The First Museum Dedicated Exclusively to Poster Art Opens Its Doors in the U.S.: Enter the Poster House

How times have changed since our late 80s col­lege days. Under­grads do research online, upload assign­ments to a serv­er, stream music, down­load affir­ma­tive sex­u­al con­sent con­tracts, and turn to Face­book when it’s time to find a ride home for the hol­i­days.

But one aspect of the col­le­giate lifestyle remains unchanged.

They still fes­toon their dorm rooms with posters—the actu­al paper arti­cle, affixed to the walls with blue put­ty, a care­ful­ly curat­ed col­lec­tion of taste and aspi­ra­tion.

As Cait Munro writes in Refin­ery 29:

Fresh­man, already scram­bling to find and loud­ly artic­u­late an iden­ti­ty, can leave the poster sale with two or three plas­tic tubes hous­ing scrolls that rep­re­sent the very essence of their new, par­ent-free, on-cam­pus selves. Posters become an afford­able, demon­stra­ble expres­sion of who they are as a per­son — or, in the tra­di­tion of peo­ple eager to leave behind their home­town selves, who they want to be.

Legions of style blogs have decreed that these posters should be giv­en the heave-ho along with the plas­tic milk crate shelv­ing, come grad­u­a­tion.

Per­son­al­ly, I would rather gaze upon the tat­tered repro­duc­tion of the first paint­ing that spoke to me at the Art Insti­tute of Chica­go than any­thing the design experts float as an accept­ably grown up alter­na­tive.

Is Alphonse Mucha’s Byzan­tine 1896 ad for Job rolling papers some­how unwor­thy because legions of dewy eyed under­grads have giv­en it a peren­ni­al place of unframed hon­or?

The dri­ving forces behind the new­ly opened Poster House in New York City would say no. The first Amer­i­can muse­um ded­i­cat­ed exclu­sive­ly to poster art, its cura­tors cast a wide net through the form’s 160 year his­to­ry, whether the end goal of the work was war bond sales, pub­lic health edu­ca­tion, or straight-up box office sales. As the Poster House writes:

For a poster to suc­ceed, it must com­mu­ni­cate. By com­bin­ing the pow­er of images and words, posters speak to audi­ences quick­ly and per­sua­sive­ly. Blend­ing design, adver­tis­ing, and art, posters clear­ly reflect the place and time in which they were made.

What did the best-sell­ing poster of actress Far­rah Faw­cett in a red tank suit say to—and about—teenage boys in 1976? What did it say about Amer­i­can val­ues and gen­der norms in that Bicen­ten­ni­al year? Why no posters of Bet­sy Ross?

How does the offi­cial poster for Juras­sic Park, above, com­pare to the hand-paint­ed, pre­sum­ably unau­tho­rized image used to mar­ket it to audi­ences in Ghana?

(End­less grat­i­tude to illus­tra­tor and mon­ster movie fan Aeron Alfrey for bring­ing this and oth­er Ghan­ian spins on Amer­i­can film releas­es to our atten­tion.)

Some posters have remark­able stay­ing pow­er, reap­pear­ing in a num­ber of guis­es. Wit­ness Rosie the Riv­et­er and James Mont­gomery Flagg’s Uncle Sam-themed WWI recruit­ment poster, to say noth­ing of the Barack Oba­ma “Hope” poster by Shep­ard Fairey, the poster that launched a thou­sand par­o­dies, most­ly dig­i­tal, but even so.

To learn more about vis­it­ing Poster House, its inau­gur­al Alphonse Mucha exhib­it and upcom­ing events such as Drink and Draw, click here.

via Hyper­al­ler­gic

Relat­ed Con­tent:

The Film Posters of the Russ­ian Avant-Garde

10,000 Clas­sic Movie Posters Get­ting Dig­i­tized & Put Online by the Har­ry Ran­som Cen­ter at UT-Austin: Free to Browse & Down­load

Chill­ing and Sur­re­al Pro­pa­gan­da Posters from the NSA Are Now Declas­si­fied and Put Online

40,000 Film Posters in a Won­der­ful­ly Eclec­tic Archive: Ital­ian Tarkovsky Posters, Japan­ese Orson Welles, Czech Woody Allen & Much More

The Library of Con­gress Makes Thou­sands of Fab­u­lous Pho­tos, Posters & Images Free to Use & Reuse

Vin­tage 1930s Japan­ese Posters Artis­ti­cal­ly Mar­ket the Won­ders of Trav­el

100 Great­est Posters of Film Noir

Ayun Hal­l­i­day is an author, illus­tra­tor, the­ater mak­er and Chief Pri­ma­tol­o­gist of the East Vil­lage Inkyzine.  Fol­low her @AyunHalliday.


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  • Matt Taylor says:

    This is good to see. Poster Art has a long his­to­ry and is a com­pre­hen­sive doc­u­menter of human cul­ture at spe­cif­ic times and places. As a body of work it records and doc­u­ments, many times being the medi­an where ear­ly sig­nals of the future can be found. I think this has been a pop­u­lar yet under esti­mat­ed art form both of the qual­i­ty of the work and its abil­i­ty to cap­ture what often is fleet­ing or mixed.

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