08 April 2021

Respect for posters

This is what respect looks like.

"Paris 1900: The Art of the Poster" book cover

I stumbled across this retrospective book that examines the advertising posters of Paris’s Belle Époque. It includes the work of artists like Alphonse Mucha and Henri de Toulous-Latrec. 

We often separate work done for art work done for galleries or museums as “fine art” (or simply “art”) and work done for advertising as “illustration.” But with time, those distinctions dissolve somewhat. It didn’t matter that these posters were created as advertisements for products and theatrical shows instead of fine art meant to hand in a gallery or a home.

Imagine the loss if only the work these artists created for galleries was deemed worthy of that treatment. We got lucky that these works were preserved at all. We can thank French poster collectors for that.

Likewise, in academic work, we separate work published in journals or books from work presented at conferences, particularly posters. But while the Parisian posters are now recognized as work worthy of preservation, curation, and scholarship – both as a window on history and as artwork of interest in its own right – academic posters are not so recognized.

While the Better Posters book is primarily a “how to,” I hope that one of the secondary purposes is that it starts to create some kind of record of conference posters. We need more.

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