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Poster House: A new museum dedicated exclusively to posters
Alphonse Mucha installation view. Photo: Stephanie Powell.

NEW YORK, NY.- Born in the wake of the Industrial Revolution, posters reflect and shape societal trends as they fight to captivate the public. Their job is to grab the public’s attention in a split second, persuading and informing the viewer through a savvy combination of image and text.

They are a democratic medium, used equally and effectively by grassroots movements and Madison Avenue ad firms to speak to every member of society.

Poster House takes its mission from the medium, aiming to entertain and educate all audiences. The museum will host exhibitions and events surrounding the history, design, and cultural context of posters throughout history, around the world.

The first museum in the United States dedicated to the global history of posters, Poster House has exhibition galleries for temporary shows, educational programming for schools and families, and a living archive of contemporary posters.

Curatorial Approach
1 To show this medium’s depth, Poster House will be exhibiting posters from a truly global perspective.

Unlike any other poster museum in the world, Poster House will showcase posters from all times and all countries of origin, with a particular mandate to exhibit at least one female-focused show per year, as well as at least one exhibition with a non-Western focus.

2 In keeping with a poster’s task to communicate clearly and effectively, Poster House will utilize exhibition design to visually call attention to important details of the work, and we have pared down wall text to engage with viewers of all levels of interest.

3 Posters are objects that are deeply familiar to people, but also under-represented in the academic history of art and material culture.

Understanding this, Poster House has developed exhibitions that both celebrate familiar posters, and present new subjects for consideration.

For example, Poster House will open its doors with two exhibitions: one a new take on a legendary Art Nouveau designer, Alphonse Mucha, and the other an introduction to the technologically innovative group Cyan that emerged from behind the Iron Curtain in East Berlin.

Alphonse Mucha: Art Nouveau/ Nouvelle Femme
In the main gallery space, we open with one of the most famous poster artists of all time: Alphonse Mucha.

As the man who single-handedly popularized Art Nouveau in Belle Époque Paris, Mucha’s work is known and beloved by people who don’t even recognize his name today. His incredible technical ability coupled with his strong, elegant lines makes Mucha a beautiful point of entry into the world of posters. And yet, there hasn’t been a show dedicated to Mucha in New York City since 1921 at the Brooklyn Museum.

Mucha is most exhibited in the context of his Czech heritage, but we position his work as it developed alongside his professional relationship with the greatest actress of the era, Sarah Bernhardt. He helped to shape her unconventional stardom, and in turn his sinuous, strong female figures changed how advertising spoke to the viewer.

Almost all previous shows on the artist have chosen to show his full breadth of work, culminating in his massive Slavic painting cycle. Such retrospectives, while beautiful, often obscure the revolutionary nature of his poster work. Alphonse Mucha: Art Nouveau/Nouvelle Femme gives his posters the in-depth treatment they deserve and celebrate this turning point in advertising history.

Designing Through The Wall: Cyan in the 1990s
In the opening “Jewel Box” exhibition, Poster House is showing the early work of the East German design group, Cyan.

Formed just after the fall of the Berlin Wall, Cyan is a design collaborative from East Berlin. Its founders came of age in a Communist society but turned their skills towards commercial art.

To ease the conflict between their Communist upbringing and Capitalist endeavors, Cyan was extremely selective on what and who they would design for, and the vast majority of their innovative poster campaigns were for exhibitions, performances, and cultural institutions. But this also meant their clients had small coffers, forcing Cyan to create impactful high quality posters with limited means.

To do so, they combined eye-catching designs with new editing software such as Adobe Photoshop. The resulting posters were a completely new take on advertising that aimed to actively engage the viewer in the process of comprehension.

Permanently in the space
The museum also houses several permanent interactive installations, providing opportunities for visitors to engage on a more personal level.

The Photo Booth allows viewers to hop inside a classic vintage poster, becoming an actual participant in the scene. You can flex like Rosie the Riveter, decapitate yourself à la famed magician Harry Kellar, or fly through space in the colorful world of Japanese designer Tadanori Yokoo. The photo booth is placed in one of the 23rd Street windows so passersby will be able to see visitors acting out scenes.

The Digital Poster Wall is an 87” screen in the main “corridor” of the space. As the museum will focus on temporary, rotating exhibitions, this is an opportunity to show visitors what the permanent collection holds, including fun facts about each piece.

The Design Game is a choose-your-own adventure story told through poster design. By altering the color scheme, font choice, iconography, and text, players get a clear visual understanding of how each element really affects the overall design of a poster. Ever seen a propaganda poster using Comic Sans? This will help you understand why not.

The Kids Exhibition is an immersive environment invoking New York City of the 1960s Mad Men-era, a rich context for exploring posters. A ten-foot illustrated mural wall shows a NYC street scene with blank spaces where posters would be, allowing kids to use either white board markers or supplied poster magnets to fill the spaces and complete the scene.

A Layering Station explains how images were color separated in order to print in stages. And a mini newsstand and phone booths hold activity cards and a playful sound game. The space is always open and accessible for kids and families to explore.

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