Many of the 20th century’s greatest painters are represented in a stunning show at Gallagher & Turner, which shines a light on some extraordinary exhibition posters.
If there was one group of people likely to take a keen interest in posters specially made to advertise their wares, then it’s artists. Painters are a particularly precious bunch – especially when it comes to visual presentation – so there’s no way they would just wave through any old bits of muck and tat, especially when it came to items designed to shout about their own genius. No: they always take a hands-on approach when it comes to designing advertisements for their shows, from choosing the leading image to picking out typography and colour schemes, to the overall layout. But – and here you really have to hand it to our fastidious chums – many of the posters they have produced down through the years are true works of art in their own right. Indeed, a lot of them are incredibly sought after and, due to their appealing design and relative scarcity, have become real collectors items.
‘The Leading Image: Vintage Exhibition Posters 1938-1985’ at the Gallagher & Turner gallery in Newcastle brings together some of the very best of them. As the title of the show kind of hints at, the exhibition is concentrating on a period when the golden age of graphic design dovetailed perfectly with one of the most innovative periods in art history. The wild and colourful forms of Kandinsky sit alongside the subtle and flowing lines of Matisse. Francis Bacon’s contorted bodies lie alongside daydream-like scenes by Chagall; and Braque’s cubist stylings are set in contrast to his contemporary Picasso’s more realist imagery. Some of the artists’ work particularly lends itself to poster design including Joan Miró’s whose typically vibrant colours and expressive strokes really pop off the page.
Not all of the represented artists are famed for their painting. One of the most striking posters in the exhibition is for a show by the American sculptor Alexander Calder, who was more known for his kinetic sculptures. And it’s fascinating to see how his innovative ‘mobiles’ (ie free moving pieces of metal suspended from the ceiling) have been depicted as a still image (whisper it: I prefer the poster to his mangled coat hangers).
Treat the show as an alternative look at some of the real giants of 20th century art and prepare yourself for a visual feast.
The Leading Image: Vintage Exhibition Posters 1938-1985, until 29 February, Gallagher & Turner, 30 St Mary’s Place, Newcastle, NE1 7PQ. Tuesday-Friday, 10am-6pm; Saturday 10am-5pm. gallagherandturner.co.uk