For some time now at the gallery we've been advocating artists' posters as a great way to own affordable works by the very best.
Many of the leading 20th century artists enjoyed designing their own exhibition posters, often in the form of original lithographs printed by some of the great Parisian print ateliers such as the Mourlot Frères studio.
While the poster, by nature, is ephemeral and mint copies are rare, they remain a relatively inexpensive way to buy original prints by artists like Picasso and Matisse and are hugely flexible to display, working in harmony with a broad range of other artworks, styles, and interior settings.
Here are 5 reasons why we think an artists' poster should hang in everyone's home.
1. They’re Modern
One of the things we love about artists’ posters is how fresh and modern they feel. Most posters of this kind were produced in the 1950s and ‘60s during a golden age of graphic design when the ‘adman’ was king. Artists’ posters encapsulate an aesthetic that feels as alive and relevant today as it did when they were first issued.
two artists' posters by Matisse (left) and Picasso (right)
Something about the combination of original art and graphic elements also lends the poster a cooler, less ‘stuffy’ feel, allowing them to hang as easily in an informal creative office as they would on your upstairs landing. We find they sit equally well alongside paintings, prints and photographs as they do other posters too, and complement designer furniture effortlessly.
2. They’re Different
When you buy an artists’ poster, you’re not just investing in an artwork – you’re buying something that was the result of a unique partnership between artist and printmaker and that captures the essence of that collaboration.
Artists were closely involved not just in the reproduction of their artwork but in the graphic design and layout, from choices of typography and colour to designing new images specifically for the exhibition poster itself.
artists' posters by Braque (left) and Matisse (right)
Artists’ posters thus offer a very different and rewarding insight into the artist’s mind – as a designer, as well as a creator - and one that won’t be as evident in their other work as it is in this special medium.
3. They’re Generous
One of the most obvious but most overlooked aspects of the poster is its shape and size. Because posters were designed with a specific function in mind and had to be big enough and interesting enough to catch a viewer’s eye, they’re invariably pretty sizable.
Where an etching or a linocut by the same artist for the same price might be half the size, a poster is almost always going to offer bigger ‘bang for your buck’ than other print media, making them a brilliant purchase for newly graduated students or first home buyers with plenty of blank wall space to fill.
two artists' posters by Chagall
There’s something to be said for the functional aspect of the poster too. Posters were designed to be attractive. They brought visitors to exhibitions because they looked good - they were well proportioned and featured exciting designs and colours - and they left you wanting to see more.
A poster’s always going to look great on your wall; that's what they were made to do!
4. They’re Collectible
Unsurprisingly, artists’ posters have always been popular and in recent years have become incredibly sought after. Their appealing design, relative scarcity, and their built-in history and contextual background with the exhibition they were attached to have meant these prints continue to entice longtime buyers around the world.
Because of their distinctive feel and tone, with original artwork and graphic design working in tandem, posters look especially good when put alongside one another and make for wonderful collectible sets on their own, as well as special works within artist-specific collections.
two artists' posters after Kollwitz
Whether you’re stumped about what to add to an already-established collection or are beginning to catch the collecting bug, we feel artists’ posters are a no-brainer.
5. They’re Not Expensive
Not only do posters look good, they’re also not going to break the bank. While the occasional, very special signed poster may tip towards the thousands of pounds, most artists’ posters can be bought for anywhere between £300 and £1300 depending on their rarity, condition and collectability.
artists' poster by David Hockney for the Ashmolean Museum
Original paintings and sculptures by artists like Picasso, Matisse, Miró and Braque can fetch many millions of pounds in auction houses. While those prices remain stratospherically out of reach for most of us, artists’ posters offer the chance of owning an original work of art by hugely important artists for mere fractions of those prices.