Published: June 24, 2003
– A very rare vintage poster designed by Russian artist and promoter of the avant-garde El Lissitsky for a Russian exhibition in1929 at the Kunstgewerbe Museum in Zurich, achieved a record price of $52,900 at Swann Galleries’ fourth annual Modernist Poster auction on May 5. Even the 1981 reissue of this ground-breaking photomontage image is difficult to obtain, and examples of the original almost never come on the market.
The auction also featured a previously unrecorded variant poster by Werner Graul for the pioneering German film Metropolis, Berlin, 1926, which realized $41,400. This version, bearing Graul’s widely recognized image of Maria, the film’s central character, advertises the first release of the film in January 1927 at Berlin’s Ufa-Pavillon am Nollendorf, following the world premiere at the Ufa-Palast am Zoo.
Two striking French Art Deco images by A.M. Cassandre were also among the top lots. His minimal and sophisticated advertisement for a refreshing aperitif, Vera Mint, Paris, 1930, sold for $25,300, and his strong, spare advertisement for Spidoléine motor oil, Paris, 1932, attained a record $43,700.
Nicholas Lowry, poster specialist, said, “Our fourth Modernist Poster auction was our strongest to date in this field. Four posters brought more than $25,000, a clear indication that the market is thriving for museum-quality graphic design, and that the downturn in the economy is not affecting the high end of the poster market. Exceptional images from the 1960s and 1970s also did well, in a more modest price range, a sign that this niche in the poster market is constantly growing and maturing.”
Not all the posters were European. The American examples included two commissioned by the New York Subway Association to promote postwar advertising in the subways. Eric Nitsche’s “Say It Fast … Often … In Color / Subway Posters,” 1947, sold for $3,450; and Otis Shepard’s “Rails to Sales / Subway Posters,” circa 1947, $5,060.
Among relatively recent works, Roy Lichtenstein’s pop art version of an Art Deco composition for the Fourth New York Film Festival at Lincoln Center, 1966, brought $2,185.
The sale closed with a selection of early works by the Japanese designer Tadanori Yokoo. A La Maison de M.Civecawa, 1965, which combines traditional Japanese motifs of the rising sun and the great wave with images of the modern Japanese Bullet train and a classical Western painting, reached $5,060; and Hangi Daitokan, 1970, which retools the latter composition to advertise a book by Tatsumi Hijikata, and includes Chinese calligraphy drawn by the author, Mishima, brought $3,220.
All prices include buyer’s premium.
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