Published: November 20, 2007
Bright and colorful, The International Vintage Poster Fair opened for a three-day run at Metropolitan Pavilion on Friday evening, October 19, with a preview party kicking off the show in gala style. Unlike most preview parties, the poster show opening charged only $5 for admission and the main attraction of the evening was not the libations. Instead it was the wide variety of posters that were being enjoyed by a large and close-knit group of collectors.
Both graphic and subtle, pleasing and disturbing, posters have become a specialized faction of the art world, appealing to an audience that seemingly grows in volume with each passing day. Especially attractive to those living in urban lofts or otherwise monolithic apartments, the large and colorful images have gained an enormous popularity.
Passions run high with antiques collectors in general as they hunt for items that appeal to their senses. It seemingly runs higher with poster collectors. “There is a passion and an extreme sense of pleasure in what we do,” stated exhibitor Mickey Ross of the Ross Group, Westport, Conn. “Most of us are collectors first and dealers second. There is a love for what we have here at the show and hopefully that love and appreciation of these wonderful works of art transcends to the general public as they shop.”
Ross’s sentiments were echoed by several others on the floor and the camaraderie among the dealers is keen. The 29 dealers that take part in the show are protective of their business and reputations, with all of the more than 10,000 posters on display passing through a vetting process conducted by members of the International Vintage Poster Dealers Association.
The International Poster Fair’s moniker rings true; it really is an international event, with dealers from eight countries participating, including Belgium, England, Paris, Switzerland, Israel and, for the first time, China. Numerous dealers from across the United Sates also exhibit.
Posters, all brightly colored and many that are truly works of art, reflected numerous themes that ranged from a wide variety of advertising categories representing early motoring, foods and travel. Propaganda posters spanned the American armed services recruitment posters by luminaries such as Howard Chandler Christy and James Montgomery Flagg to the communist “hate” posters produced by the Chinese government that flamed and denounced the United States.
The small room was alive with activity as the show opened. The rear and side walls of the booths were typically covered with the dealers’ prime selections, and residual piles of posters were stacked high across the long tables at the front of the booths. Unlike most antiques show displays, often static and sometimes presented with little emotion or interaction from the dealers, poster shows are alive with activity.
The piles of stacked posters remain a moving mass from the moment the show opens until it closes as dealers are continually shuffling the piles for prospective customers. The flashes of color and alluring themes attract customers like a moth to a light.
With each proverbial turning of the page, there comes an image that would look great somewhere †such as the large bright red Razzia poster with twirled pasta wrapped around the tines of a fork that would look great in the kitchen; a movie poster depicting a sultry starlet that would look great in the bedroom; the travel poster with a stylized Art Deco speeding locomotive that would look great in the living room; the cigar and playing card poster that would look great in the den; or the captivating image of a toothbrush and toothpaste that would look great in the bathroom.
While many of the pieces are strictly visual in their appeal, posters with political messages represent an important historical aspect to the collecting field. Yang Pei Ming was on hand at the show with an assortment of political posters from China’s revolutionary period. This was the first time that a dealer from China has exhibited at the fair and the propaganda art proved to be a major draw, attracting a great deal of interest from collectors and dealers. Prior to President Richard Nixon visiting China in 1972, there were hosts of government-approved images that furthered the revolutionary movement that began there in 1951. “After ’72, NTS posters stopped, the government said no more,” said Ming. “They are getting harder and harder to find.”
Images of young men wielding switchblades while shielding their families, throwing grenades and of students marching and proclaiming “America Get Out” filled the booth. Prices ranged from $300 to $4,000, which, according to Ming, was quite reasonable, especially when considering the recent boom in the price structure of Chinese contemporary art.
Propaganda posters were also seen in the booth of Israeli dealer Farkesh Gallery, with Russian-influenced images celebrating the 30-year anniversary of the Communist Party in Israel and Israel Defense Forces posters from 1949 depicting bands of soldiers marching for the cause.
American posters were also filled with political messages, although most portrayed a patriotic theme promoting support of the country and its soldiers. Artists such as James Montgomery Flagg and Howard Chandler Christy produced iconic posters that had young men enlisting and senior citizens buying war bonds.
Far from the photography that grew out of the era that followed the poster production years of the early to mid-Twentieth Century, these works reflect advertising agencies at their pinnacle.
Virtually all of the posters reflect excitement, where life is lived to its fullest; where the average citizen is lured to far-off exotic destinations by images of pastoral landscapes, speeding motorcycles, inviting Art Deco ships or the idea of a fishing creek so remote that trophy fish appear at the end of the line of one’s fly rod with alarming regularity. They portray a mental image of the perfect glass of red wine, the finest hand rolled cigar, a face cream that only royalty had available to them, literally selling the consumer best of the best through eye appeal.
The International Vintage Poster Fair celebrated its 30th year with this most recent show and it was followed up by another event in California. The show has been managed by a variety of people over the years, with Gail Chisholm, Mireille Romand and David Pollack currently at the helm. The next show will take place March 28″0 in Chicago, Ill.
For information, 800-856-8069 or www.posterfair.com .
See related story at antiquesandthearts.com/Antiques/TradeTalk/2007-11-20__11-50-45.html
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