New York is getting its first museum dedicated to the art and culture of posters. The Poster House, expected to open in 2018, will feature advertisements, propaganda, political pieces and concert posters. The space is dedicated to presenting the impact, culture, and design of posters, both as historical documents and methods of contemporary visual communication.
“Posters that are advertisements show how a culture interacted with commerce around it, be that commerce of ideas or buying stuff,” Poster House curator Angelina Lippert told Amplify. “They are a way of seeing slices of life that don’t even get footnoted in history books. For example, there was a product poster from 1901 and it was for velveteen balcony armrests so that you could spy on your neighbors in comfort. It was a real product that existed, but that’s not something they would ever teach you in history class. You get access into how people lived in a much more intimate way, because these aren’t the big moments in history.”
The museum will house a permanent collection of around 1,000 posters dating back to the 1880s and showcase special exhibits of foreign and contemporary prints throughout the year. Poster House will be located at a 15,000-square-foot space in Chelsea that used to be the home of the beloved New York business, Tekserve.
“Tekserve was the only place in the city where you would take your computer before the Apple Store came to be,” Lippert explained. “That’s where everybody had to go and Tekserve would save the day. They could recover anything. It was this beloved institution that had been around for 30 years and then last year it closed.
To honor the space that will be entirely renovated for the Poster House, the museum is hosting a pop-up preview before the remodel. Opening on Sept. 20, the month-long exhibition will be called “Gone Tomorrow” and display posters from closed venues and cult events that make up the fabric of the city’s history, including The Clash’s famous Times Square concert in 1981.
“The pop-up is focusing on venues in New York that no longer exist. A ton of posters in the show are for CBGB, The Red Parrot, or Mud Club which were these punk rock venues or jazz lounges that don’t exist anymore,” Lippert said. “It’s about seeing where certain music clustered during different times. The West Village had a ton of jazz at one time. The first disco in Manhattan was on the Upper East Side which just baffles me because it is for strollers and where old ladies live now.”
Other lost venues and iconic events that will be remembered at the pop-up are The Electric Circus, Harlow’s, a Simulated Saturation Bombing of midtown, Ginger Rogers at The Waldorf, Studio 54, the Fillmore East, and Elaine’s. The wall text next to each print will have two interesting facts about the venue along with what has taken its place.
“The majority of the time it is a Duane Reade or a Chase bank that has taken over the space. With the prices in New York, everything is becoming a chain,” Lippert said. “You’re really losing the texture of the city. Based on the show a lot of that texture was independent music venues.”
After the pop-up show, the space will be entirely renovated for the museum that has been establishing its collection for two years. Museum Director Julia Knight told Amplify that the permanent selection comes from the founders’ private collection, including World War I and World War II posters as well as other pieces gathered by a team at the museum led by Lippert.
“We’ve taken a two-prong approach. One is that we are collecting backwards. So Angelina is constantly in touch with current advertising agencies and people who are currently putting up posters in the streets to get things from right now,” Knight said. “The second approach is to do it in conjunction with our programing. So if we have an idea that we cannot borrow for, we have slowly been purchasing around those ideas.”
The museum will use their growing collection as well as special exhibitions to explore the impact posters have had on society and culture and how they continue to reflect identity in various generations.
“There are a prolific amount of music related posters in the world. The biggest ones that I can think of are from the San Francisco rock scene, all the Bill Graham and Family Dog posters,” Lippert said. “They brought posters into the modern era for Americans. If you look at them, they use a lot of art nouveau imagery from the 1890s. There is a poster from the Grateful Dead that uses an (Alphonse) Mucha print but puts it in neon. The people making those posters were looking at posters that were from the turn of the century as inspiration. They were really savvy in their knowledge of poster history.”
The “Gone Tomorrow” exhibition will open on Sept. 20 at the former Tekserve at 119 West 23rd Street, New York and additional information about the permanent museum can be found at PosterHouse.org.