The increasingly popular exhibition poster

Since the development of lithograph printing in 1866, posters have been a vital means of communication and a familiar feature in our public spaces. In recent years, exhibition posters have become more and more popular, with museums and galleries being one of the most proactive establishments publishing these posters.

We take a closer look at why exhibition posters are increasingly filling our spaces, featuring designs by David Hockney, Henri Matisse, Keith Haring and Pablo Picasso.

Rare examples

Often exquisitely designed, exhibition posters have become reminders of significant cultural movements. In recent years, these prestigious relics have become increasingly popular, not only because of their appealing design. One of the most common reasons for exhibition posters becoming popular is down to their relative scarcity.

Until recently, museums and galleries only printed enough posters for distribution purposes to create momentum around the event. Once an exhibition was over posters were often disregarded unless the printer or gallery owner had saved a few copies at the time.

A perfect example of an extremely rare poster is ‘David Hockney’s Photocollages: A Wider Perspective’ produced by the International Centre of Photography in New York.

This exhibition documented David Hockney's experiments in photography with the Polaroid SX-70 and single-lens-reflex cameras. The sizeable poster features Hockney’s famous photo collage ‘Pear blossom Highway’ made up of 800 photographs taken by Hockney himself at the road juncture on Route 138, Antelope Valley, California.

Pearblossom Highway, 1986, David Hockney

Landmark exhibition

Some of the most sought after posters are those from landmark exhibitions acting as reminders of historical events.

Keith Haring often enjoyed creating one-off designs to advertise his shows. In 1984 he produced 'Keith Haring a Milano...', a dynamic poster promoting his first ever solo show in Italy at Galleria Salvatore Ala in Milan.

The subway station artist was invited to Milan by Salvador Ala, an Italian gallerist and supporter of ‘Arte povera’ - Italy’s radical art movement whose artists explored unconventional processes and materials.

Ala saw potential in Haring and invited him to spend three weeks in Milan preparing for the exhibition, working in the gallery and studios throughout the city.

During this time, his main form of influence was music, working non-stop to thumping beats, helping him paint with precision and speed. Haring would often frequent the iconic Milan club Plastic to unwind.

With its neon tones, dynamic figures and spiraled eyes, the exhibition posters mirrors the euphoric and dizzying energy of large underground European clubs during the mid 1980s.

Produced by fine art printers

During the first half of the 20th century museums had become important educational institutions informing the public about art, history and developments in science.

As a result, several fine art printers including Mourlot Frères Studios and Imprimerie Arnéra Archives began specialising in producing exhibition posters.

Both printers were celebrated for their high-quality lithograph runs and collaborated closely with artists such as Pablo Picasso, Marc Chagall and Henri Matisse

Many of these exceptional posters are sought after by collectors and museums alike, including Matisse’s photo-lithographic poster for his exhibition at Galerie Dina Vierny in Paris.

Fernand Mourlot invited Matisse to the studio and encouraged him to treat lithography as a painterly medium. The result was an electric blue poster featuring Vase de Fleurs, a distinctive line drawing of a plant drawn by Matisse in June of 1944.

Prolific artist

Exhibition posters pre-1970 are astonishingly uncommon, especially those advertising a show by a prolific artist.

One of the most in demand exhibition posters are those designed by or for Pablo Picasso's exhibitions.

As an influential 20th century artist, Picasso was an unstoppable force and possessed a flawless grasp on many techniques, not just painting. In 2018 Louisiana Museum of Modern Mark in Denmark held 'Picasso Ceramics'.

Acting as the first show in Scandinavia to focus on Picasso's ceramic production, the exhibition contained 160 artworks produced mainly at the Madoura workshop in Vallauris.

Louisiana's powder blue poster features Picasso's painted vase 'Tete de femme'. This eye-catching design also marked the beginning of Louisiana's 60th anniversary year.

The museum's ties with the Spanish master and the production of the poster for the momentous event makes it incredibly popular amongst collectors.

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