The recent past is rich with cultural and historic landmarks—and, of course, fantastically creative posters that commemorate them. Icons of the late 20th century include David Bowie, David Byrd, Keith Haring, Andy Warhol, and more.
30 1/4 x 46 7/8 in./76.8 x 119 cm
This extremely rare publicity poster of Josephine Baker features a photo by Sam Levin, who was one of the most famous photographers of actresses and celebrities from the 1930s to the 1970s. He was credited with creating an aura of glamour and fame for Baker beginning in the 1930s, and he also created striking images for Romy Schneider and Brigitte Bardot. The poster is undated but is probably from 1960-’61, when Baker produced the last of three albums recorded for the RCA label.
29 3/8 x 45 3/4 in./74.6 x 116.2 cm
One of the most celebrated series of posters from the 1960s was a creation of the Doyle Dane Bernbach agency. Under its art director Howard Zieff, a dozen images of decidedly non-Jewish characters delighted in the “real Jewish rye” baked by Levy’s. These posters appeared on their delivery trucks and in the New York subways. This is the first and rarest image from this series.
24 3/8 x 43 1/4 in./62 x 110 cm
Democrat Toby Moffett understood the persuasive power of art; in 1974, Alexander Calder’s campaign poster helped him to gain election to the House of Representatives. For his 1982 senatorial campaign, he turned to Romare Bearden. Bearden, who was born in the South and settled in New York City, dedicated his creative work to unity and cooperation within the African American community. His poster for Moffett is representative of his later work in graphic collage, and pays homage to his mentor Picasso. Most importantly, it demands respect for the Black community so effectively that the work could stand alone without the senate tie-in. Though Moffett did not win the seat, we’d consider this design to be a resounding victory.
13 5/8 x 22 3/8 in./34.6 x 56.8 cm
This seldom seen design is the original poster for the Woodstock festival that would go on to become a cultural phenomenon. When the venue was changed from the town of Wallkill to Max Yasgur’s private farm at the last minute, a new poster had to be commissioned to redirect attendees (see PAI-LXVI, 472). Unfortunately, Byrd had just left for a month-long trip to a remote town in the Caribbean and was unreachable by phone, which left this design to wallow in obscurity despite its far greater artistic merits. But it’s a poignant time to revisit Byrd’s Ingres-inspired design; Woodstock celebrated its 50th anniversary in August of last year.
60 1/2 x 70 3/4 in./153.7 x 179.7 cm
“While continuing his work based on symmetry, Cieslewicz also created posters which recalled Constructivism, such as the famous posters for the multidisciplinary exhibitions at the Centre Pompidou, Paris-Moscou, Paris-Berlin, and Paris-Paris. These were to influence many posters and also catalogues and invitation cards. The representational elements are eliminated in favour of the logic of typographic forms, enriched by colour which is also treated as a compositional element” (Cieslewicz/Pompidou, p. 92). This banner was printed on canvas and hung outside the Centre Pompidou for the run of the exhibition; the design was also used for the cover of the exhibition catalogue.
19 1/4 x 25 7/8 in./48.8 x 65.6 cm
Cocteau applies his characteristic playfulness to this announcement for an exhibition of pottery at the Galerie Pont de Arts. Cocteau dabbled in a variety of art forms, all of which evidenced his knack for playful line and minimalist forms.
19 1/2 x 25 1/4 in./49.5 x 64 cm
David Bowie, ever the shape-shifting ingenue, is captured here between two of his distinct eras: the Major Tom/Pierrot character associated with his 1980 album, “Scary Monsters,” looks toward the next phase with the typography featured on his 1983 album, “Let’s Dance.” The portrait of Bowie bears an incredible resemblance to Edward Bell’s collaged artwork for the 1980 album, but the signature is not Bell’s; nor do we have evidence of a finalized poster made from this drawing, though it could have been a preliminary design for one of the “Serious Moonlight” promotions. It’s a drawing as attractive and mysterious as the legendary artist—and an incredibly unique work to remember him by.
35 5/9 x 50 3/8 in./90.5 x 127.8 cm
Dolce Vita was Lausanne’s rock-and-roll version of Studio 54—so naturally, Keith Haring was a frequent visitor and creative contributor. To capture the vibe of the place, he conjured these two porous wrestlers whose limbs create an abstract geometric form. The owners of the venue so loved the design that they adopted his text as their official sign before closing in 1999. And because the Swiss have always been hip, you’ll find this text at bottom: “An original creation of Keith Haring published by the Swiss State Dept. to commemorate the 700th anniversary of the Swiss confederation.” Rare!
32 7/8 x 45 1/8 in./83.5 x 114.6 cm
As the legend goes, it was the mid-’80s in New York City, and Andy Warhol was at Studio 54. He gazed beyond the bar to the liquor on the wall, concentrated on the Absolut purity of the vodka bottle before him—and a game-changing ad campaign was born. Warhol selected Keith Haring as the second artist for the Absolut campaign, and he produced this shining, cheerful, One Nation Under a Vodka Groove design with the playfulness that only Haring can deliver. This is the version without the bottom text banner: “Absolut Haring.”
28 7/8 x 42 1/2 in./73.4 x 107 cm
Steinberg’s 1976 cover for The New Yorker, also used as a poster, became legendary, iconic, endlessly copied and parodied throughout global culture, and a paragon of wit. Cover illustrations for The New Yorker have always set the bar for flashes of deep insight. But none surpass Saul Steinberg’s succinct encapsulation of a Manhattan mindset: globally self-important, yet improbably, paradoxically, deeply provincial at the same time.
45 3/4 x 29 7/8 in./116 x 75.8 cm
“Pretty as a pigture, huh?” In 1968, RCA came up with a novel piece of technology: a device that could scan camera film for printing. Warhol immediately saw the implications: the traditional processes of the graphic artist and lithograph designer would become obsolete, since one could lift an image directly from film to poster. Since Warhol’s own art involved messing about with photos, he must have looked at RCA’s invention with a wry sense of humor. So the poster he created is a multi-layered joke: a live pig is painted as a piggy-bank, photographed, and scanned, with all the fine detail of fur reproduced perfectly. Warhol then went one step further. As Warhol painted the pig at RCA’s ad agency J. Walter Thompson, Irwin Horowitz photographed it. Andy’s entire team from the Factory was there. Warhol then negotiated the film rights to the work, seizing back the means of production in a move both artistically and professionally savvy. If any of our readers have a copy of it, please call us.