Thursday, April 9, 2009

Movin' on Up....

Sorry, folks, this Blog has moved to a much more classy local: 


Enjoy!

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Paris-Beziers


Why do vintage toys look so much cooler than contemporary ones? 

Note that I said "look cooler" rather than "are actually cooler," because, frankly, if I remember correctly, those pull-the-string-so-the-legs-and-arms-flail paper dolls aren't at all fun.....they just look nifty. 

That said, the not-so-childsafe toy sword is probably ten times more fun than anything we come up with today, if only because the potential for blinding your best friend is unnecessarily high. In fact, this wasp-waisted clowness seems to be packin' a Yummy Mummy's worst nightmare: every toy in her basket of delights is a choking, poking, gouge-your-eye-out and stab-your-little-sister hazard. That, and I'm sure 80% of it is made of lead. 

Of course, now you ask me why I'm promoting this in the most cynical light possible. Well, that's just my way, kids. Why do I need to run the gamut of compliments about this poster when it's so obviously pretty, so delicately charming, so colorfully delightful? People after fabulous decoration and pop-off-your-wall design are already sold on this little lovely. It's the strange ones like me that want a bit of an oddball-twist to their home decor who need to see it the way I do in order to appreciate its wonderousness. 

So, in summary, top 3 reasons to buy this poster: 

1. It's a really beautiful example of turn-of-the-century design; yet, lucky for you, it hasn't been put on every mousepad and calendar in your local Barnes and Noble. So, people will know you're actually housing the real deal on your wall. 

2. Who doesn't like the antique Toy Expo? 

3. If you're a slightly wacky person, you will find endless humor in this image. 

All that for $3,500 at Posters Please!

Monday, April 6, 2009

Have You Seen This Girl?


I'm pretty sure false advertising doesn't even begin to cover what the NY American and Journal is doing here....but I'm also pretty sure there wasn't a law against doing that in 1906, so too bad for all those people eagerly looking forward to their own personal flying device. You're just up that proverbial creek.

From a purely historic perspective, this is a nifty little gem of a poster because it really gets right down to the art of early advertising: catch the audience's imagination with something completely new and exciting, and by doing so get them to buy your product. 

And what did Mr. W. R. Hearst (oh yes, this baby is the product of a company owned by that Orson-Wells-hating, Citizen-Kane-inspiring, Xanadu-living man himself!) decide to use to get people to buy his newspaper? Screw up-to-the-minute news coverage or acuweather forecasts--he went all the way with a parasol-toting Mary Poppins-cum-reporter. 

Why is this a clever gimmick? Well, by using a well-dressed lady, you pull in your hungry-for-female-flesh male readers. Because she also happens to be doing something seemingly-dangerous, you also get the proto-feminists itching to break into the male professional world, or, at the very least, fantasize about it from the comfort of their kitchens, to want to read this article. Finally, you attract the young and adventurous with promises of 'the new flying machine,' which, presumably, they too can own in the near future. It's like combining The NY Times, Elle, and Scientific American with a hint of Page Six. 

Now the more important question: why should you want to own this? Well, that's easy: it's super-rare, historic, funny, weird, and will easily start a conversation in any room in which it's hung. That, and, unlike many rare vintage posters, it's got an estimate in the May 3 auction of $2000-2500. 

 

Friday, April 3, 2009

The Challenger....


Generally speaking, I wish I had a bit more muscle in my home. Yes, an artsy boyfriend is lovely and provides unbridled sensitivity; however, sometimes I just want someone around that can totally kick some ass. 

Enter Orlando. 

While not much of a looker, Orlando here is 100% pure power. He can wash & dry with the best of them, move furniture like a champ, carry heavy boxes, and fight off thieves with a single flex of his mighty forearm. I'm not quite sure how I feel about his Mr. T bling, the bowlcut, or that chartreuse cummerbund, but all fashion faux pas can be mended with a quick trip to Bloomingdales. No amount of new-girlfriend makeovers, however, can get a guy that ripped overnight. 

Why should you put this on your wall? Well, frankly, the question should be why wouldn't you put this on your wall, but here are my top 2 scenarios:

1. Picture you're a loving father who has just helped his 20-something darling daughter move in to her new Harlem residence. Sure, it's a bit scruffy, but on her salary, you can't expect better in Manhattan. And she assures you she'll be safe, despite the drive-by shootings every Tuesday, the five homeless people living under her fire escape, the less-than-secure-looking lock on the door, the crack addict residing three doors down, and the twelves rapes that have been reported this month from the area. Best solution? Rather than help support your little lady by funding an apartment in a more docile area, why not get her Orlando? Imagine the thief/rapist/criminal who enters her apartment late at night only to find himself face to face with Mr. O--sheer terror, that's what I say. He'll be running for the hills and warning his equally-delinquent friends not to bother with that apartment, 'cuz she's got herself a giant on call. 

2. Every young man needs inspiration. Rather than decorate your son's walls with images of juiced-up professional athletes who hold the very real potential of becoming horrible role models (read: Kobe Bryant and the like), why not give him Orlando? With no historical documentation on the guy (just you try googling him--NOTHING!), he has no chance of ever letting you or your little boy down. He's simply pure machismo, a decorated athlete to be reckoned with. 

If neither of those two options tickles your fancy, just look at the poster. Orlando is the coolest heap of random ever to grace this fair blog, and that alone should excite you. Because at the end of the day, don't you want wall art that can kill all your friends' wall art? Nuff said. 

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Champagne Volcano?



As one of the heavy-hitters in our May 3 auction, I felt I should spend some time on this crazy number. 

Here we have Pierre Bonnard's 'France-Champagne.' Artistically, this is pretty damn edgy for 1891. Everything is just so fluid and hall-of-mirrors-y in its angles and proportions (I mean, look at that crazy spaghetti forearm!). I'm not quite sure what's her hair and what's her dress....and her left cheek sort of melds into her shoulder. Oh Expressionism, meet your predecessor. 

Is this what France-Champagne does to the senses? Rather than being a blathering, speech-slurring drunk, does one instead see the world through Gumby-inspired lenses? I sure hope so. 

Now let's move on to the product itself: the champagne. Either this little lady shook up the bottle for an hour and then over-poured, or France-Champagne is the equivalent of those science-fair baking soda volcanos. Both scenarios are fine with me, though, because the idea of tripping about a room filled with bubbles tickles me to no end. 

Frankly, the only time I've seen the world this way is when watching a Julie Taymor film or after ingesting prescription drugs. If France-Champagne is a cheaper alternative, put me on the mailing list!

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Bonnard



I know I'm usually all about the ha-has, but today I'm going to show you my softer side (did anyone else get the old Sears commercials in their heads when I said that?). 

Normally, what gets me into a poster is the that insta-magic I feel when I first lay eyes on it. This is usually due to some sort of graphic awesomeness, bizarre juxtapositions, cool advertising methods, nudity, or absolute hilarity. In the case of this poster, none of those things caught my attention. 

What did grab me right away is the frame whoever consigned this little beauty to us decided to construct around it. Sadly, I cannot visually share this frame with you as I only have the photo from the catalogue; however, take it from me, this frame is to other frames what La Perla is to Victoria's Secret--absolutely beyond even considering a comparison. We're talking flawless black lacquer, seamlessly smooth wood, and a backing that probably made nuns in Calcutta go blind. We're talking some serious Gepetto action on this frame. 

Why is this at all relevant, you ask? Well, because sometimes a poster that isn't all bells and whistles can be raised to a near-godly status by the right presentation. I would not have thought much about this Loupot poster for Bonnard without its amazing frame. But now that the frame grabbed my attention, I have to admit that this is one of the most understated, lovely images we have ever had the privilege to offer. 

Loupot's managed to create the effect of sfumato in a overtly two-dimensional medium--that alone is magnificent. She's got this hazy, mid-motion swish to her entire body, like a girl spinning around in a new dress. Some of my friends see a Geisha, others their beautifully-done-up Jewish mother from the 1960s trying on shawls at Bendels. And, while those two readings of the image aren't necessarily correct, they both involve this feeling of luxury--cashmere and Chanel No. 5, chanton silk and oriental rugs, amber and blush.

Overall, it's an image that really does have the power to transport you to a different time and place. And, frankly, that makes it more valuable than anything in this auction. 

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Air India


I sort of had to do a double-take when we got this poster in a few week's back. 

But no, I saw it right the first time....that's a turbaned monk. Oh wait, I get it....Air India to Rome....cultures melding in harmonious glory, gotcha. 

And still, I somehow think that the Vatican wouldn't approve. Then again, I don't think the Vatican flies via Air India, so they might just never find out. It's probably for the best. 

Putting all the politically-correct-or-not debates aside, this poster really stands out for me amongst the plethora of Airline posters we have in this upcoming auction. 

For one, it's funny--Air France rarely, if ever, put humor in their posters, relying more on sleek design and glorified depictions of far-off lands. This is a bit more down-to-earth, as if it's saying, "you, too, touristy person, can fly to Rome and experience weird quirky things--they love tourists there, and will therefore treat you amazing well!" Now, I can't really remember the last time Italian monks let me near a harp in a monastery, but I'm sure it happens if you fly Air India. 

Moving on, another reason this poster gets bonus points for awesomeness: it looks like they let Keith Haring and the guy who designed The Jetsons create this poster. Look at those little action lines indicating the monks' tonsures--don't tell me that isn't Keith's signature move (See: http://tinyurl.com/62afvm). And I don't think I need to tell you that the Indian guy looks like he just got plucked off the Cartoon Network. Combine the two and you've got 1980s-lovin' appeal all over it!

If you're still not convinced of this poster's superiority, why not ponder the financial question: would you rather spend over $1000 on an Air France poster, or buy this with an estimate of $800 to $1000. It's possibly the biggest aviation win in the entire sale. 

Monday, March 30, 2009

Poke the Nude!


Sometimes advertising art and the actual item being sold fail to find a harmonious balance. This is one of those moments. 

No, this is not a poster for the latest burlesque show, nor, more specifically, an artistic rendering of one of the later scenes in the musical Gypsy (as I was so certain it was). It's a poster for the 1918 Exhibition of Danish Art and Commerce! Now, unless you read German, don't tell me you could gather that little factoid from the visual context clues. 

So yes, there's a bit of a disconnect here between art and event. That said, I'm not about to claim that this poster lacks awesomeness; for, frankly, it's ten times more exciting that the event its promoting. Danish Art and Commerce? Pooey! I want to go to the show where a bunch of dismembered hands poke the naked chick! 

If those are your sentiments, too, you can pick up this beauty for under $2,000 in our May auction. It's basically an inappropriate conversation piece waiting to happen. 





Friday, March 27, 2009

Taisez Vous!


I honestly had to look twice to figure out what this poster was about....and now that I'm 'in the know,' it's gone from the boring category in my mind to the totally awesome one. 

No, it's not some kind of Soviet Stenberg-Brothers creation (though with that color scheme, it should be), nor is it advertising for a Chinese magic show (yes, that Mandarin collar and something about the eyes led me down that road, too). It's an post-occupied France propaganda poster! And boy do I love me some propaganda....

For our non-francophone friends out there, this poster says (loosely) "Be quiet! The Germans may have left, but their spies remain!" 

Before I continue, can I add how fabulously hilarious it is that Mallet (the artist) thought that by giving this guy a monocle, he was instantly more German. Because, you know, that's what those Deutsch-folk wear....monocles or eye patches. Like Tom Cruise in Valkyrie. 

Moving on, I somehow see this as the social equivalent of those old US/Brit public health posters (She may LOOK clean, but that good time girl will give you VD! See: http://tinyurl.com/ckoptx). Different point, same purpose: don't talk to strangers, kids.....because they could be spies or give you a genital disease.  

Now, with this baby having the super-low estimate of $1200-1500 in our May auction, who doesn't want to spread the word and hang it in their office? It's for a good cause, you know. 




Thursday, March 26, 2009

Tea


Since I reminisced about Merry Olde yesterday, I figured why not stay on that kick? And what brings me back to the other side of the pond more than memories of Vespa rides with Max? Oh, that'd be tea. 

A wise Brit once said to me that tea is a magical substance. Hard day? Have some tea. Got a cold? Try the tea. Social gathering? A round of tea. Grandma up and dies? Tea will help. Financial crisis? Totally a tea moment. You get the idea. 

Well, somehow I think that although the fellow in this poster understands the wondrous properties of England's signature beverage, his redheaded companion fails to grasp the concept. He's actually shouting that he only will drink a certain brand (Pekarek's) of tea, and that obviously she should have known not to serve him such a paltry substitute; however, I like to just think that he's a massive tea fan and she's totally not getting it.

And for all those tea fans out there, this poster is still sitting around our gallery. Why not let all your houseguests know exactly where you stand on India's greatest export? 

 




Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Vespa


You know how some smells can take you back to certain moments in your life? I have that going on when I look at this poster. 

This time last year, I was living it up in not-so-sunny England with the sweetest fellow in existence: Max. Max loved his Vespa more than anything in the world--he wore a hoodie with a Vespa on it, he took pictures of random Vespas he'd see on the side of the road, my mom even got him a Christmas ornament of a Vespa. Obsession doesn't even begin to describe it. 

Anyway, the majority of our bonding-experience took place while on the back of his Vespa. We'd go everywhere--Hyde Park, Spitalfields, Brompton Road, The Strand, Tottenham Court Road...just everywhere, really. I'd wrap my arms around his middle, sing silly songs into his ear, and watch the world rush by. In a word, happiness. 

In fact, I don't think I've been as happy since those days of Vespa-filled travel--but, in looking at this poster, all that comes right back. The speed, the fun, the sunshine (well, perhaps not the sunshine...England's got sort of a constant October going on over there): this poster is just pure joy, absolute freedom. 

And so, I hope someone buys this poster in our May auction. I mean, how often does instant happiness on a page come up for sale? 

Monday, March 23, 2009

Spring Mills


After noticing that the batch of fabulously 70s towels I purloined from my grandmother's house last weekend are made by Springs Mills, I feel inspired to write about one of the two posters in our next auction which advertises said fabric mega-corporation. 

I don't think I can really say too much about how charming this poster is. Slender, rosy-cheeked vision of loveliness jumping rope, all blonde curls and milky white skin. Yep, you guessed it--a PG-13 pinup queen straight out of the mid-1950s. Sex may sell, but sex disguised as innocents sells better. 

And what exactly is this poster selling, besides the pretty lady? Well, judging by the text, I have a feeling that her undergarments are in question (which, obviously, justifies the need to show off her knickers). No worries, though: if they're by Springmaid, then they are not only 'crease-proof,' but also 'anti-rebound.' Why do I have the sudden feeling that not even my far more modern underthings can compete with that? 

Put this little lady up in your powder room to remind you of a more discrete time. With an estimate of only $1200-1500, I bet you can justify it, even in a tight economy. 

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Purple People Eater


With the Modern Sale out of the way, my thoughts get to turn to bigger and better things: our May auction. While I probably haven't seen everything in it yet (my unbound copy of the catalogue shows up from the printer tomorrow...oh joy, oh rapture!), I am almost certain that nothing else in the sale can compare to my new favorite poster. 

This is Thomas Heine's 'Tinte und Feder,' a curious and über-awesome poster from 1897. 

First off, the use of only three colors, one of them being a gorgeously rich purple, puts him way ahead of his time design-wise. You don't really see stuff this Modern coming out of Germany for another ten years. It is just so crisp and so striking, and yet so simple. You'll get a better idea of what I'm talking about when I do a later entry on our other Secession-era posters--the graphic design of this period was, generally speaking, much more focused on intricate, jewel-like patterns (think Klimt, Moser) or sinuous, pastel-infused sweetness (Mucha). You just don't see something like this that often. 

I also think that Heine might be taking advertising out of the obvious and into the intellectual with this poster. Unlike it's less-culturally-sensitive counterparts, this poster gets a round of applause for using something other than blacksploitation imagery to sell ink (see http://tinyurl.com/cc8nhz ). Instead, I think Heine is making a reference to the ever-popular Sturm und Drang in Germanic literature--why not use the icons of that which is written to advertise that with which one writes? Perhaps this little satyr is meant to represent Goethe's (or Mann's for that matter) Mephistopheles. Then again, perhaps I'm just a hyper-intellectual snob that likes to project such literary fantasies upon art that I love. 

Sadly, with an estimate of $30,000-$40,000, this bad boy isn't going to make it to my bedroom this year; but, I'll gladly give the title of "Most Awesome Person In The Universe" to the bloke who buys it. 

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The Shielding Shadow


Sometimes a poster comes along that is just badass. 

This is that poster. 

Here you have one of presumably many different posters for a serialized black and white silent film. This episode? Oh, it's The Great Sacrifice (read: someone dies, though probably a minor character...like a mill worker or the heroine's father). More importantly, in this episode, Ravengar (+10 points for coolest name ever) 'escapes the Wreck.' Yes, the Wreck  is so impressive that it gets capitalized. 

Putting the text-based awesomeness aside, how else is this poster 'badass'? Well, here are my top 3 reasons:

1. He's got a head wound, and doesn't even flinch in pain! He's superhuman, I tell you!

2. Ravengar's got that super-intense, knowing look of revenge in his eyes....he is going to go Chuck Norris-style on someone in the near future. 

3. Amazing facial hair. The more mustachioed the better, I say; and he's about 3 inches of mustache away from Civil War General. 

Still not convinced it's worth the $1200? Well, think of it this way--you'd be the only one of your friends to own an original poster for a cinematic event even IMDB and wikipedia fail to document. Now that's badass. 


Tuesday, March 17, 2009

In Denmark, Children are Awesome



These two chunks of goodness have been floating around the office for a while. Why no one has purchase them, I may never know; for, frankly, they're some of the best contemporary graphic design I've seen around here. 

Yes, I know what you're thinking--they do look an awful like Target ads; however, I promise, given that these were done pre-1970, they came first. And here you thought Target was so clever. Fools. 

Honestly, though, how are you not charmed by the pair of these? The use of sharp red and clean white, the no-frills background, the counterintuitive arrangement of props, the use of perfectly blonde children--you've got an advertiser's dream looking you square in the eye. 

Now, of course you want to know what they're selling. Given that they're both endorsed by Denmark, I'm assuming these are the equivalent of the "Come to Jamaica and Feel All Right" ads that come on after Jeopardy. Of course, these are more like "come to Denmark and see our perfectly-formed offspring tell wondrous tales about everyday items." 

Well, maybe it's not so nonsensical for the poster with the boys. The little fellow in red obvious just brought back a crate of giant fish from the local harbor, along with a few super-fresh fillets for tonight's supper. Meanwhile, his two buddies obviously decided to pop over to sub-par Norway to do their fishing. The moral of the story? You can give a fish to a Danish boy but you can't teach him to fish in his own waters....or something like that. 

The poster of the girls is a bit less cut-and-dry (oh, fish preparation pun!). If we go by the compare-what-Denmark-has-to-what-everyone-else-has theory, all this girl is saying is that in Denmark, there are 1970s televisions in the sky. I honestly have no idea. Feel free to leave your thoughts...or just buy them from us for $200 and see if your houseguests can't come up with better interpretations. 

Monday, March 16, 2009

Wall Street




A few days ago, a friend of mine showed up at a theme party dressed as Trickle-Down Economics. 

The theme was 'Myths & Legends.'

Given that the economy is, um, experiencing technical difficulties, I think she and her fellow irony-lovers should invest $200 and purchase this bit of graphic hilarity to decorate their otherwise-less-awesomely-decorated walls. 

What the Jesus night-light and the Buddha throw-pillow were to those Urban Outfitter hipsters three years ago, this poster could be to the tongue-in-cheek social commentators of today.  They could sit in their skinny jeans and cowboy boots, listening to some super-cool bit of vinyl they picked up at a thrift shop, and gaze upon the Gold Calf that was Wall Street. With towers made of NASDAQ-flavored text from an obviously better time, they could take stock in the fact that they are far more with it than the rest of you plebs. 

So go on, soak up that Dow-Jones goodness. You earned it. 

Friday, March 13, 2009

Post-Auction Debate


Well folks, the auction went off without....hrm...I can't quite say without a hitch now can I? Without a massive meltdown? Yes, definitely. With a few minor hiccups? Sure, but what doesn't have those these days. 

All follies put aside, it was quite a success. Now, in addition to selling off the unsold lots (I get you nice price on poster, ja?), the biggest point of discussion is...


....where do I hang this? 

This was one of my early favorites in the auction--a textless wonder by the brilliant Tomi Ungerer (of Conjunction Junction fame). 

I think she's fabulous--she sits in my mind somewhere between Morticia Adams and a Hans Bellmer. The touch of red on splayed legs and parted lips is just oh so Egon Schiele. In other words, we've got pop/art references up the proverbial wazoo in this baby. 

Of course, my friends don't all see it quite that way. There may have been a moment when a certain someone said that he didn't want to see "a dismembered woman farting" on my wall. These may just be the tragedies he and others may face, for one man's gaseous paraplegic is another woman's art, and I apparently am all about equal-opportunity in my apartment's decor.  

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

One Day Left....

Ah, the final day before the Modern Sale....what great trepidation fills my soul. 

Truth is, while we've had some solid absentee bids flow in over the last 72 hours, we could sincerely use some more. How does this read as at all appealing to you, gentle audience? Well, frankly, it translates as 'you can totally get the majority of the stuff in this auction for the starting bid!' In many cases, that's $50 or $100 for an authentic, vintage, first-edition poster from the 1930s-80s of your choosing. 

So, go to www.postersplease.com. Browse the many lots in the Modern Posters auction, see what you like, and call 212-787-4000 to tell us you're willing to bid the reserve. You might just get an amazing deal. 

The biggest deals in this auction? Oh, let's see:

Lot 207, original Jimi Hendrix from the San Francisco Rock collection. Normally goes for $2,000+ at auction, we have it starting at $200.

Lot 210, the original Beatles Yellow Submarine poster. Heritage Auction House has it listed with a starting bid of $2,000 (4,000-6,000 estimate), and yet we're starting at $500.

Lot 2, a Nixon campaign poster from the first time he ran for president. Only $50 starting bid!

Lot 82, Cards As Weapons, the cult classic book & poster, both 1st editions, and both for $300 (goes upwards of $1000 on Ebay!)

Lot 92, A signed special edition gold poster for Alvin Ailey Dance Company, signed by the entire 1974 cast, $500 starting bid!

Lot 132, the original poster for the Marx Brothers Scrapbook, signed by Groucho! $500

Lots 190-195, many of the original posters for Guy Peelaert's cult classic Rock Dreams, all $300-$600.

Lots 276-278, the original You Don't Have To Be Jewish to Love Levy's rye bread ads. The artist died 2 weeks ago, so you'll never see these again. All $200!

And so, so much more!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Boz Scaggs


I may sound completely uninformed (or just severely dated), but I have no idea who Boz Scaggs is....and yet I want this poster. 

Why? Well, my reasons are very simple:

1. It is one of the original San Francisco Rock posters by Bill Graham. What does that mean? Well, all ye not in the proverbial know, that means you'd be owning a slice of one of the most historic moments (movements even?) in music history. The posters done for shows produced by Bill Graham redefined art for music--they basically made psychedelic art iconic. 

2. It's small. Well, smaller than your usual floor-to-ceiling advertising poster, which, in an apartment lacking much available wall space, is exactly what I need. A food an a half by under 2 feet? Sure, I can make room for that. 

3. This might be the most important reason: it is possibly the sexiest poster I've ever seen. You've got the title--'slow dancer'--which automatically brings to mind cheek-to-cheek nuzzling and moonlit whispers. It's a black and white photograph, which is always more romantic than color. And he's totally molesting her breasts without being all that trashy. And his leg? Oh, don't get me started. It's just hot. 

So, before we never see this puppy again, someone should call in an absentee bid for $200 and get it at the reserve. After all, it is our only copy and it might not come around again all that soon. 

Monday, March 9, 2009

Losing Your Head....


I am by no means a sports fan; however, somehow, this poster manages to speak even to me. 

A year or so back, I happened to be in England during a Chelsea-Manchester United game. Chelsea lost on their home turf. As fans poured into the streets post-game, I witnessed from the back of my friend's Ford Fiesta exactly how insane soccer/football fans are. 

The most appropriate phrase that springs to mind is "HOLY HELL." 

European soccer fans are nutso--they ransacked the streets, teamed up to turn over cars, set trashcans ablaze, and climbed all over the slowly-moving vehicle I was attempting to inch through the masses. 

This silk-screen manages to sum up my feelings for those footie-fans, losing their heads over the love of the game. 

Bonus? This is actually a silk-screen, so it's much more fragile and technically more like a painting than your average vintage poster. And with a starting bid of $100, I could make the bedroom of a sports-loving little boy a whole lot brighter on the cheap (see lot 378 at www.postersplease.com)

Friday, March 6, 2009

You Don't Have to be Jewish


Because Howard Zieff died last week, I figure now is a good time to showcase one of his most famous advertising campaigns: Levy's Jewish Rye. 

If you ask people of a certain age (read: anyone over 40), this ad series was monumental in its time. He took normal-looking people which he found on the streets of New York--not the blonde-haired, perfectly freckled tots or slender, stylish models used for every other product in the 1960s--and made them give us some of the most honestly happy smiles in poster history. 

This, of course, wasn't the be all end all of Mr. Zieff's creative awesomeness: he went on to direct the 'spicy meat-a-ball' Alka Seltzer ad, and even the cinematic gem that is Private Benjamin (oh, wonder of my childhood!).

That said, you can't hang any of those Zieffs on your wall, whereas you can have any Levy's Rye poster for all of $200 this Thursday at auction.....decisions, decisions. 

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Alice Boots


To follow up on yesterday's post, this is the first poster my boss hung in my office because she thought it "reminded her of me." 

Her actual phrase was, "this is how I think you see the world." 

Looking at this poster, I would presume that to mean that I see the world as filled with half-naked women and creepy critters dying to molest me.....which actually isn't far from the truth, but I won't get into that. 

The awesome thing about this poster is that it has taken a dozen or so famous images by Aubrey Beardsley (whom I collect) and merged them into a single über-Beardsley land wherein this Alice girl can roam. And I imagine then that it's no surprise that her name is Alice, for what other blonde-locked child would be wandering about such a surreal wonderland? 

Ok, now that we've discussed its literary and artistic merits, let's come back to the fact that it's advertising boots. This is so not a poster for Keds or Converse--this is an ad that makes me want to hunt down this bootery and get myself a fancy pair of laceups!

Too bad I already bought myself a copy, or I'd spend the $100 at next Thursday's auction

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Harlow's


My boss occasionally pops into my office with a poster that is "oh so you!" This was the second poster she thrust into my arms with that phrase. 

This is where I have to look a combination of elated and impressed--the former, for her finding it; the latter, for her knowing it was 'oh so me.' Oddly enough, she's been spot on every time.....this worries me. 

Anyway, hopefully you are all asking yourselves why is this poster 'oh so me.' There are at least 5 obvious reasons:

1. The font is off-the-hook awesome. Who doesn't love vintage font-i-ness? I feel like I'm looking at a red-painted wood sign for Miss Milly's Piano Bar, complete with burlesque dancers; I can hear the tinkle of untuned standup, the crunch of peanut shells beneath my feet. 

2. Flappers make me happy. Gimme a über-long necklace, no tits, and a cigarette holder and I'm a tommy-gun away from pure pleasure. 

3. Sepia. Favorite tone for anything. Nuf said.

4. Mixing of geographical, cultural, and historical characters. I certainly want to be in a place where flamenco guitar players dip flapper girls--thats just crazy hot. 

5. This "most exciting discotheque" is all of 3 blocks from my current apartment. For me, having this poster in my house would be like the equivalent of having that bumper sticker that says 'think global, buy local'....because I'd be thinking awesomely by decorating locally. And frankly, that's all I can do for Harlow's since I believe it's no longer extant. And as one of the cheapest posters in our auction (all of $50 and it's yours people) I think I can wave a flag of remembrance in my living room for this long-dead legend. 

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Alka-Seltzer




There are some advertising campaigns, like the one in the previous entry, which show the world through the rosiest of glasses in order to sell you a product. 

Then there are ones which show you the bitter truths of the human condition, thereby indicating the necessity of said product. This Alka-Seltzer advertising campaign definitely fits into the latter category. 

We see before us three fabulously decadent spreads.....the phrase 'food porn' comes to mind. Oh, how I would love to chomp into that bratwurst and suck down those buttery potatoes; to inhale the delights of that sumptuous paella; and to ingest ever morsel of that pile of Italian treats. 

Perhaps I do not know any better, because consuming one, let alone all three, of these feasts will assuredly lead to such a gastrointestinal nightmare that I might swear off eating altogether. Or perhaps, I know all too well that my trusty friend Alka-Seltzer will somehow magically cure all tummy-related ailments as fast as you can say "plop, plop, fizz, fizz." 

Either way, for $100, I can have all three daily tempting me from my kitchen walls, reminding me that for every indulgence, there is probably an inexpensive cure.  

Monday, March 2, 2009

Springtime in Switzerland


This is, hands down, the most adorable advertising campaign of all time. 

Really, what ingredients of cuteness has the artist failed to incorporate? 

1. Fluffy lamb, complete with neck-bell, and flower-in-mouth, dancing through the air. 

2. Bees and butterflies kissing the local flora.

3. Quaint little village nestled by a lake. 

4. Printed during the last year of World War II, so frankly this looks like paradise compared to the rest of Europe. 

OF COURSE I want to go to that village--it's probably even a spa with fabulously blonde masseuses who perform hot rock massages and shitsu. I'll go swimming in spring waters and somehow not have an allergic reaction to their impossibly clean pollen and stingless bees. Their lambs will not smell like barns, nor will they defecate in any noticeable way, but instead will be immaculately groomed, smelling akin to fresh laundry on a summer's day--what's more, they will trot up to me ever so gingerly, offering me freshly-plucked flower as they nestle their oh-so-adorable lamb faces onto my lap. The hills really will be alive with the Sound of Music (and it's Switzerland, so no Nazis!), and my own personal Heidi will deliver me hot cocoa in the evenings. 

Now, my choices: either I pay the $200 asked in the auction for this poster, or I spend a grand on airfare and a hotel in Switzerland. Why do I feel like the real thing can never live up to this ad? 

Friday, February 27, 2009

More Elvis


Another day, another Elvis. I promise you we only have two in the auction--this will be the last time you see his mug on my blog....ok, maybe there's one more, but who knows if I'll blog it. 

While naked Elvis praying to the Virgin looked like he'd just jumped out of a Gidget movie, this Elvis is a little worse for wear. Here is the bloated Vegas Elvis of paintings-on-velvet fame. 

Look at that pudgy, creased face; those squinty little eyes; that silk scarf and popped collar combo. This is truly the Elvis on his way to an overdose. 

And I have to ask--what on earth is circling his head? Its like he's in an orbit of blue-raspberry soda pop bubbles and black heroin smoke......both of which would be rather appropriate, now that I think of it. 

I would put this on a wall in an office....or maybe in my dressing room. Why? Because it's motivational for everyone. The pretty, perfect people of the world can look at that and reinforce to their fabulous minds not to go down the same path as poor, poor, no-longer-a-heartthrob Elvis. Meanwhile, the socially-awkward, less-than-handsome fellows can gaze up at Elvis's swollen visage and say to themselves, "you know, if that guy can get the ladies and die famous, so can I."

It's a win-win situation for all involved, frankly. And for a one-time fee of $300, I totally want to be a part of that love. 

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Elvis


This may possibly be the best Elvis poster of all time. 

Here we have him, The King, praying to a Guadeloupe-cum-Venus, nestled into a seaside grotto. Better still, said grotto has become a vanity mirror, possibly implying that Elvis A) sees himself as a Catholic Intercessor between Man and God and B) prays to his own graven image. 

What's more, we have him in profile, in all his sun-baked, slicked-back-hair glory, mostly naked. Yes, he still has on his shoes, yes he's got on those strange spandex shorts....but we have imaginations....and those shorts leave very little to said imaginations. 

Note the ethereal purple haze drifting over the mountains below, the sun setting, the warding-off-the-devil horns Elvis flashes us with his inside hand. Tonight is a magical night, apparently. 

If Elvis is still alive, this is exactly where he is. He's not at a Kansas gas station or at the Louvre; he's half-naked on a hill, praying, like a good Catholic boy. 

And for those who can't live without him: he's $600 at www.postersplease.com

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Nixon, Nixon, Nixon





Browsing through the auction catalogue this morning, I noticed that boy do we have a nice little collection of Nixon-related stuff. I know, I know--possibly not your favorite president (just don't tell my dad that); however, whether you're pro, con, or indifferent, we may have the poster for you.

Nixon #1, El Presidente Triumphant: waving his hand in the air, smiling that big ol' Quaker smile, Nixon is totally The Man in this poster. I'm assuming this was an original campaign advert meant to squash out his political challengers and not a re-election poster. I mean, if this were the latter, it'd be like saying "well, we might not have kept our promises the first time...but THIS TIME, oh yeah, totally." So, yes, this is probably a first-time-around election poster. And don't he look charmin?

Nixon #2, Nixon Tattoo on Asian Booty: I really don't know where to begin with this one. You've got what I'm assuming is a shapely little Asian girl with a bad tan-line, wearing a US-style football jersey and little else, about to go all Girls Gone Wild toward a poster of Mao, while having already tattooed Tricky Dick on her ass. This is a whole new side of opening relations with China that I can't quite wrap my head around. Is she telling Nixon to kiss her proverbial butt while she macks on Mao? Is it a critical inquiry into the fickleness of American youth--one day staunch Republican, the next a Commie Pinko? Some things I may never know....

Nixon #3, The Watergate Game: frankly, the only Nixon poster I have any strong feelings about--and those feelings are super-positive, fyi. Who doesn't want to play the Watergate Boardgame?! You get to burn the tapes, be Deep Throat, meet in secrecy, and walk Checkers all over the course of one glorious hour of dice-rolling fun! And when you're done, you just pin it back up on your wall, displaying to all your amigos just how politically savvy and hip you are. 

The best part? All of these have starting bids of $50--I don't think I can buy a nice version of Monopoly for that little anymore!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Del Monte


I can't quite figure out if the designers of this ad were going for a less-is-more approach or for something insanely melodramatic. 

If you can't make it out, the woman sporting the 1960s threads is cradling a can of Del Monte Tomato Paste to her bosom, label aptly positioned against her chest so that we all can see that it is, indeed, Del Monte which she is pressing to her heart. 

On the one hand, you've got a designer who has decided not to actually focus on the product. I mean, why do we, the audience, even need to know it's Del Monte, or any other tomato-based product for that matter? Instead, let us focus on the raven-haired lovely and the lush jungle setting, all of which put us in the mood for something delicious....oh, what's that in her hand? Oh yes, Del Monte....time to make some pasta sauce. 

Alternatively, perhaps Mr. Design Man thought he was bringing a bit of soap-opera drama to an otherwise-lackluster product. A young beauty, lost in the wilderness, gazes off into the distance. Is that  hope in her eye? Why yes it is! And what brings her such fortitude? Her Del Monte tomato paste, that's what! It is her lucky amulet, a talisman of strength that guides her through her perilous journey which a lesser woman would faint at the mere thought of! 

Either way, I feel my kitchen walls getting braver and more sumptuous by the minute once this saucy lady (yes, I know...awful, awful pun) gets framed. May she guide my tomato sauce to the Elision Fields of deliciousness, the ambrosian plains of epicurean glory.....

Monday, February 23, 2009

Fashion Week


In honor of Fashion Week, I thought I'd present this poster. 

How do you make Fall Fashion Week more glamorous and star-studded than it already is? Let Bogie's wife, the infamous Lauren Bacall, host it in a pink jumpsuit, that's how! 

Slinky and sassy, Ms Bacall juts out her hip in this poster made for the 1968 CBS Fall Fashion Week preview show. And just to make it a little bit more glamorous, they've decided to give her a boy-band backup group of sorts, all donning slightly different black tuxedos. Of course, for those in the know, this isn't any ordinary kick-line of fellows--it's none other than Emanuel Ungaro (of Balenciaga fame), Marc Bohan (from the house of Dior), Pierre Cardin, and the immortal Yves St. Laruent (behind the shades, of course). Now that's one hell of a fashion roster! 

If only these flawlessly styled greats could gaze down at me from my wall as I create my own fashionable masterpieces every morning. Oh wait, for $50, they can!


Friday, February 20, 2009

Pride & Prejudice


Snuggling up with Dad on a Sunday evening to watch whatever was on Masterpiece Theatre was one of the staples of my childhood....well, that and the Tuesday night Mystery!.....and when was Miss Marple on? Perhaps this just proves that PBS used to be so much better, when quality programming was a serious goal rather than their current offerings of Century of Quilts and Antiques Roadshow...I know some of y'all love that stuff out there, but to me it's like QVC meets Reality Television. 

Anyway, in honor of my nostalgia for Sundays filled with fabulous interpretations of classic literature, I present to you this poster, one of sixteen bygone beauties from the 1980s/1990s in our March auction. 

Frankly, I can't imagine a more beautiful and simple image for summing up one of the greatest Jane Austen novels: the hard and the soft, the graceful and the firm, the negative space and the photographic reality....yes, I'm waxing poetic, but isn't it worth it? 

Also, where else can you find something that's still sponsored by the now-Exxon-owned Mobil? 

At $100, I feel like my study-cum-English-teacher-office would be a hot-cocoa away from Daddy's armchair. 

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Incredible Friendships....


This poster always has me a little confused. Here we have a worm and a bird, gazing oh-so-matter-of-factly at each other, accompanied by the tagline "Incredible friendships begin at Brandy's." 

Yes, I see, you want us to infer that at this bar even the most natural of nemeses make nice. I, however, see something a bit different. Here are my scenarios:

1. At this bar, you will meet someone who all your friends say is bad for you. You fail to heed their warnings, go home with the person, only to be eaten the next morning before breakfast--thereon invoking the expression "the happy-hour bird gets the worm."

2. You will meet people at Brandy's that make you feel so uncomfortable that you fear bodily-harm. 

3. You'd rather devour these people than mate with them....perhaps it's the perfect place for a one-night-stand. 

4. Interspecies dating is the specialty of the house. 

Frankly, all these things sound concerning to me.....concerning enough that I'd love people to gaze up at my wall and wonder what kind of twisted sense of humor I have to have hung this poster in my home. And for a grand total of $50, it's pretty much worth it, isn't it? 

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Girls, Girls, Girls!!!



The mystique of the Parisian showgirl has held a dear spot in my heart since the New Year's Eve I spent in Paris, age 10. All feathers, glitter, and legs, those spot-lit darlings can-caned their way into my imagination. 

Such fantasies have been upheld throughout my youth by such cinematic wonders as Moulin Rouge, There's No Business Like Showbusiness, Gypsy, and--dare I say it--Showgirls. Really, put a feathered headdress and a bustier on anyone, and I'll watch for hours. 

Now, if you said to me "you know, I can make your loft feel like a dressing room at the Folies Bergere," I'd sign you a blank check and call Bravo to send over a film crew. Sadly, no one has propositioned me yet (at least not about this), so I can only dream...

...that is, until now. On March 12, our auction has not one, not two, but eight Showgirl posters up for grabs. Not only that, but many of them are of a reasonable enough size that even the smallest of studio apartments can enjoy them (we're talking no more than 14 x 22 inches)! 

So, ladies, embrace your glamorous side and pepper these beauties about your boudoir. 
Fellows, show your manfriends that you can be surrounded by more high-class broads than Hough Hefner. 
Whatever your reasons, for as low as $50 you can add the glamor of Parisian nightlife to your home without having to pay the airfare--and in this economy, that's a fabulous deal. 

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Bring 'Em Up Short


Now that our printed catalogue has finally come out, I can gaze upon the wonders that will be in the next auction with ease. Yay for me. 

Today's treasure is this poster for Newsweek. It might not look like much on the screen, but this baby is damn-near arresting in person. Having seen the photo for it a dozen times before this auction, I was surprised at how impressed by it I was when we finally unrolled it. It's huge. As in mini-billboard huge. And the colors are just oh so sharp. 

Moving on from its aesthetic merits, though, there are a few solid reasons I want this above my couch:

1) Because the idea of Napoleon's massive head staring out at me every morning strokes my ego like nothing else. To be face to face with the man that conquered most of Europe, to have him gaze back at me with his strong, beady little eyes--measuring me up, finding me a worthy companion--these are the moments I live for. 

Ok, yes, that may be dipping into my historical fantasies, but still--the idea is kinda nifty. 

2) Tangential to the idea of making eyes at Napoleon the Conqueror, with this on my wall, I now get to say that I OWN the man, the myth, the legend. "Oh, you like Napoleon, eh? I've got him framed back home above my couch." "Not only was Russia his downfall, he now has to live in my apartment!" Hardy-har-har. Not that that really comes up in conversation all that often (how many Napoleon fans are there out there? How many of them really like to admit to it outside of war reenactment conventions?), but if it did, I'd be so prepared to impress them. 

3) He has gangrene of the eyes. Let House analyze that one. 

4) It's got a pun (Oversized Napoleon + 'bring em up short' = visual pun glory). Who doesn't want a pun on their wall? I, in fact, try to fill my house with as many visual puns as possible...I once had a bathroom covered in pictures of Europe (European/Ur-o-peein')...childish, yes...but also, I feel, brilliant.

So, support your love for visual puns, historical figures, and current events and bid on this baby. $400 starting bid and it could be yours!  

Friday, February 13, 2009

I Like Polish Bike


There are some posters that just make me happy, giddy even. This is one of them. Not a single other poster in our upcoming Modern Sale tickles me as much as this little guy. 

Why? 

Well, first, he is kind of adorable--who doesn't like a clown freestyling on a bike? Ok, maybe that wasn't the best question since plenty of people hate clowns, in which case you can simply infer that his no-hands/no-feet move means he's speeding toward certain peril. Either way--fun clown, dead clown--we're all happy. 

More importantly, it's the tag-line that gets me: "I like Polish bike!" Yes, Borat, you sure do. Since the dawn of humor the foreigner speaking oddly-strung English has made us smile, even if only on the inside. If it didn't, all those websites dedicated to Chinese translations of English wouldn't get a million hits a day. In fact, try saying "I like Polish bike" without using a funny accent--impossible! Instant joy! It's like Prozac for your walls. 

Best part? This is a tourist ad. Because deep down, my Polish relatives all know that making people giggle is the best way to make them want to visit you again. 

Thursday, February 12, 2009

A Month Away to the Day....





My big auction is in exactly one month's time. Therefore, I find it only fitting that I copy and paste my punchy new press release to coincide with this auspicious date. I've also included a few key photos so you get an idea of just what kind of awesomeness I'm dealing with here: 

For Immediate Release:

Modern Posters

The first auction of its kind, Posters Please will be offering a collection of over 400 original, rare posters from the 20th century. 

NEW YORK-- On Thursday, March 12th, Posters Please--the world's leading dealer of authentic vintage posters--will be offering over 400 lots of rare, original posters from the 20th century. This will be the first sale of its kind ever, opening up a previously untapped market to the auction community. 

Aimed at first-time buyers, with many reserves as low as $100, this sale offers the unique opportunity to begin collecting works of art that will only increase in value. 

With sections dedicated to politics, music, fashion, entertainment, travel, and sports, this sale follow the trajectory of pop culture from the 1950s through the 1980s. Bring back what once hung on the walls of your (or your parents') dorm room. From Levy's to Levis, Fu Manchu to Nixon, Nina Simone to Paul Simon, the Stenberg Brothers to the Marx Brothers, Mao to Tao, no sale has ever been filled with this many iconic images or notable personalities. 

Highlights include a complete set of the famous San Francisco Rock posters, the first printing of Ricky Jay's 'Cards as Weapons' poster and book, the ghoulish advertisements of Edward Gorey, Gunther Kieser's concert images, a half-naked Elvis, the Beatles, Andy Warhol, Herman Miller, the cult images of Yokoo, and both the political and erotic posters of Tomi Ungerer, of Schoolhouse Rock fame. 

Notable artists featured in the sale are Celestino Piatti, Seymour Chwast, Ivan Chermayeff, Paul Davis, Raymond Savignac, David Byrd, René Magritte, Alexander Calder, Erte, Joe Eula, Jean-Michel Folon, Milton Glaser, Richard Lindner, Michael Prechtl, Charles Kiffer, Rick Griffen, Wes Wilson, Bernard Villemot, Herbert Leupin, Pierre Fix-Masseau, Weimer Pursell, Tomoko Miho, Peter Teubner, Henri Matisse, William Klein, Al Hirschfeild, Keith Haring, and Pablo Picasso. 

Accompanying this schmorgasboard of artistic talent are such (in)famous subjects as Allen Ginsberg, Watergate, Houdini, Alvin Ailey, Marcel Marceau, Woody Allen, Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, the Folies Bergere, Edith Piaf, Judy Garland, Liza Minnelli, Bette Midler, Barbra Streisand, the Supremes, Bob Dylan, The Rolling Stones, Jimi Hendrix, Frank Zappa, The Who, The Grateful Dead, The Lovin' Spoonful, Simon & Garfunkel, Lauren Bacall, Cuba, the New Yorker, the Giants, and Babe Ruth, Laurel & Hardy, Josephine Baker, Bobby Short, Maurice Chevalier, Mahalia Jackson, and Dizzy Gillespie. 

It's time to go All the Way with LBJ, to vote Fu Manchu for Mayor, to express your awe for the poetry of Yevtushenko, to demand Safe Energy Now, to embrace Big Nudes, to have a Flask of W.C. Fields, to say Hooray for Captain Spaulding, to use Cards as Weapons, to tune into Masterpiece Theatre, to dance at the Mod Ball, to listen to Jazz, to see War in Concert, to climb aboard the Yellow Submarine, to Step Out in Levi's Jeans, to wear Chanel No. 5, to feast at the Herman Miller picnic, to read the New Yorker, to take all 65 Bridges to New York, to witness The Fight, to Join the Free and Fat Society, and to take part in the Electric Circus. 

All that and more on March 12, 5:30 pm, at the International Poster Center. 

Particulars: The auction begins at 5:30 pm on Thursday, March 12th. 
The posters will be on view from February 27 to March 11, M-F, 9-5; Sat/Sun, 11-6. 

The International Poster Center
601 W. 26th St., 13th Floor
New York, NY 10028

Tel: 212-787-4000
Fax: 212-604-9175
Email: info@postersplease.com

Free catalogue upon request; also on view at www.postersplease.com 
 

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Big Nudes


Another pretty fabulous work up for grabs in our March 12 auction is Milton Glaser's 'Big Nudes.'

Apparently, those nudes being shown at the SVA's gallery are SO BIG they can't fit onto the poster. Those must be some really big nudes. 

Putting aside the humor, though, I love the entire concept of this poster--it's so simple, yet so effective. The fact that he's focused on the legs rather than the torso removes any overt sexual connotations, maintaining a provocativeness that's more fun than carnal. Like a Matisse, this body is playful and naked rather than pornographic. 

I also love how by simply distorting the figure over a straight line, the viewer gets the sense that the body is flowing outside of the realm of the painting and onto the frame. It not only continues off the page, but is both canvas and structure. 

Now, if we put aside the academic analysis for a moment, let's also take the time to contemplate the awesomeness of this poster. Who does not want a giant nude hanging over their towel rack? I know I do. That way each time I get out of the shower, I feel like I'm not the only big nude in the room. It's both comforting and decorative--and you won't find that happy combination anywhere outside of a family photo album these days. So go, get your bid on. 


Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Tomato


On March 12, we're hosting our first-ever Modern Poster sale. I think it's the coolest thing ever, but, then again, it was my idea, and I'm a massive egomaniac. 

This is one of my favorite little gems within the sale. I don't really care that it's an advertising poster for the Tomato Music Company (home to such greats as John Cage, Leadbelly, and Santana), but more that it's a poster of a giant tomato in an armchair. 

First, this tomato has some serious interior design skills--check out that insane wallpaper. Are those purple urns, magenta swags, and olive-green vines? Oh, I think they are. And he's got a crazy grandma rug to match! I sense some vegetable has been watching Bravo's Top Design. The only major flaw in his space-creation would be that the chair is facing a wall....but Mr. Tomato lacks eyes, so this is entirely forgivable. 

Second, let's talk about the tag-line: "Tomato: Something Unusual is Going on Here." Well, yes, something is. Attack of the Killer Tomatoes has gone into retirement, invested in an arm chair, and now lives in a flashily-decorated home....that (and this is just what I surmise by looking out the window), and said home is floating in some sort of Space-Odyssey ether. And why is the curtain hanging outside the house? Now THAT'S really unusual. Oh, and judging by the lit cigarette, I sense that Mr. Tomato is a smoker....I'm sure there's a pun in there about smoked vegetables, but I'm not going to touch it. 

Overall, I give this an A+ for conversation-starting capabilities. And, frankly, with a starting bid of $300, that's a reasonable price to pay for awesomeness. 

Monday, February 9, 2009

Gems of the Belle Èpoque



In honor of our new poster exhibition 'Gems of the Belle Èpoque,' I've decided to dedicate this entry to two of our big pieces--La Dame Aux Camille and Lorenzaccio, both by Mucha. 

Now, I normally think of Mucha as a candy-box artist--the kind of guy whose stuff has now wound up on mouse pads and Barnes & Noble calendars worldwide. We've seen his Four Seasons (or Four Flowers...or Times of Day...or, well, the list goes on...) so many times in the living rooms of our boyfriends' grandmothers' that they're synonymous with doilies and stale store-brand baked goods. 

This entry of  his art into the world of middle-class kitsch has almost made us forget that back in the late 1800s/early 1900s, his work was revolutionary. He was Mr. Art Nouveau, the golden child of Czechoslovakia (and, frankly, Europe). 

He was so famous, so popular, that he became the chief poster designer for almost all of Sarah Bernhardt's publicity images. Here we see her, larger than life (no, seriously, these things are nearly 7 feet tall) in two of her great roles. 

The first, La Dame aux Camelias, is arguably Bernhardt's most famous role. It revolves around the tried-and-true plot of a fallen woman rejecting her lover before watching him be outcast by society for associating with her (Verdi's 'La Traviata' was obviously based on this Dumas novel, too). This poster, however, I think is a bit more epic than the famous storyline. Look at those gorgeous metallic stars, the rich folds of her dress, the weight of the ermine stole, the resolved sadness in her face as she leans against the balcony behind her. Really, how much more elegant do you want it to get? And don't forget the fabulous details--the hand in the lower left holding the white camellias with such precious, pulling their roots out of the lower text; and above, in either corner, the hearts of the two doomed lovers pierced with thorns. 

Showing off just as much detail is Mucha's poster for Lorenzaccio,  a play by Musset revolving around the life of the famous Lorenzo de Medici. A complex psychological play, Lorenzo plans to transform society for the better by murdering the corrupt Duke of Florence. However, in order to get close enough to the Duke to assassinate him, he must embrace a similar lifestyle, ultimately resulting in his own corruption. So, basically, a play with all the juicy parts of Hamlet and the big works of Dostoevsky--good times. Now, I'm not sure when a dragon comes into the plot, or what the little Medusa-esque woman sheathing the dagger with her torso in the lowermost panel is supposed to represent, but I think it's a sensational work, complete with over four types of paisley!  

So, those of you out there who thinks Mucha is a bit passé, think again! This man rocks the proverbial socks of the large-scale poster, and kicks some serious Art Nouveau ass. 

Friday, February 6, 2009

Harlem


When I mention to my mother that I might be spending Friday night in Harlem, I hear a rather worried gasp crackle through the cell phone before the usual assault of questions and pleas hit my ear. I have to remind her that I'm probably not going to become a heroin mule or fall head over heals for a pimp--I mean, why would I spend that much time on the subway for thrills I could just as easily find in the East Village? 

The Harlem I'm after is the Harlem portrayed here--all flickering neon and velvet black night. I love how the white vertical lines punch out the image into a giant H, how the whole street gets sucked into this vast darkness that feels anything but empty. If ever an image truly captured that area, it's this one. 

And where does it come from, you ask? Back in the late 1960s, this poster was part of a ten-image series commissioned by the Container Corporation of America as a salute to New York City. Used as public decoration, these posters covered the walls of churches and subways cars alike. If only Big Business still found this sort of public art appealing, I wouldn't have to look at so many advertisements for 1-800-DIVORCE or the 'Best Pediatrist in NYC' on my way to work every day. 




Thursday, February 5, 2009

Bal de Misère


No matter how much you protest when your friends invite you, everyone secretly loves a theme party. I've been to everything from a Create Your Own Superhero Bacchanalia to an 18th Century Casino Night, and I'm still bewailing the fact that I was out of town during the infamous Mustache Ball. 

The party advertised in this poster, however, takes the proverbial cake. Straight out of Zoolander, it's the "Derelicte" ball....except rather than be a facade for the fashion industry's secret ploy to kill the Prime Minister of Malaysia, it's an all-out serious social event. No Mugatu, no hand models, just a pure, homeless-inspired fashion fest for your late-night enjoyment. 

I mean, look at the fellow on the poster. Adorned in the best hobo style an Art Deco artist could muster, he is rockin' out. Don't you want to put on your knee-patched ochre tights and Constructionist tunic, too? 

And what sort of entertainment would be provided, you may ask? Well, according to this poster, you get to look forward to a Ukrainian choir, some hygiene intervention lectures, a ballet, an around-the-world look at poverty, the next season of women's fashion, and jazz (4 types of jazz, at that). If they topped all that off with copious amounts of alcohol, I would imagine it was a pretty wild time. 



Monday, February 2, 2009

Marque à L'Aigle



As long as we're on the theme of posters that will confuse your house guests, let me point out this bit of fabulousness, perfect for that vast tundra of bare wall over your couch. 

At first glance, this is a perfectly charming, normal, turn-of-the-century poster. The rosy faces and plump dollops of snow fit in with that whole Cheret "Palais de Glace" genre (again, worth a google if you're not familiar--Cheret's work is some of the most iconic of the last century). 

But then, you notice something a bit odd: where are the old man's feet? 

Now, if you have a solid knowledge of French, there's a rather ridiculous little limerick off to the side about shoes and amputated limbs (why someone thought that was an appropriate advertising avenue to go down, I don't know); however, let's just think about the image itself and what your non-francophone friends will surmise...

1. The elderly gentleman was so entranced by the shoes that he stood outside the window for many hours, during rain, sleet, and hail, until finally about 5 inches of precipitation built up around his feet, freezing them to the ground. 

2. During a freak kitchen accident, he lost both of his lower extremities. The doctor on call had to make a split-second decision, resulting in his using industrial-sized forks for prosthetics. He now has the added bonus of excellent traction, and makes a fine living cleaning up trash in local parks. 

3. This man really is a war veteran, and the advertising industry would rather portray amputees as jovial bon-vivants than their George Grosz/Otto Dix counterparts. 

I'm not even going to touch on what the flesh-toned tail protruding from the rear of his coat is supposed to represent.....other than possibly the tail his faithful dog seems to be missing. 

Friday, January 30, 2009

Tortured Heart


So many vintage ads for journals, literary or otherwise, are way too cutesy or boring for my taste. This little gem, however, is weird enough to tickle me happy. 

You've got some bizarre shadow-creature (complete with shadow-nipple) reaching around to strangle what can be best described as a harshly made-up transvestite with killer cleavage. Note how the heart in 'coeur' is right over where his/her heart should be--A+ for cleverness there, Mr. Mercier. 

Now, given that the story is all about jealousy, we suddenly realize the need for a chartreuse background (read: little green monster). And, you know, in the 1930s only women suffered from jealousy, so obviously the shadow-personage of Jealousy is female....but I still prefer my first, less-academic description. 

If only I had a bare wall in need of something cool to confuse my house guests. 

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Les Drames de Toulouse


When our show "Toulouse-Lautrec: 100 Prints & Posters" closed a few weeks ago, I was pretty floored that this little gem hadn't been swiped up by someone fabulous.  

Okay, okay, I know--it's not the most visually appealing thing in the world, nor it is exactly on par with what most poster-people want hanging above their dining room table; however, this poster is packed with more niftiness than a 430-piece orchestra of Elvis impersonators playing "Eleanor Rigby." 

First, this is literally the only surviving complete copy of this image IN THE WORLD. That's right, for a fraction of the cost of a 3-sheet Moulin Rouge (of which there are far more than one copy), you can have yourself a one-of-a-kind work by the same artist. Ponder those bragging rights. Just ponder them. 

Second, this poster's got a story--a dirty little history, if you will. Back in the Lautrec days of absinthe and can-can girls, a Mr. Arthur Huc, editor of a little magazine called La Dépêche de Toulouse, wanted a big-name artist to help advertise a new serial-novel appearing in the publication. However, rather than pay for said artist to create the entire advertising poster, he had the brilliant idea of only commissioning Lautrec to produce the image. Later, he pasted Lautrec's hanged man onto the much larger sheet that you see here, the text provided by another, much cheaper, artist. 

Finally, the story that this poster is advertising is straight-up ballah, my friends: Set in the 18th century, it's based on the real-life Calas affair (totally worth a wikipedia if you're not already familiar with it). In it, Papa Calas, a Protestant, is on trial for the murder of his son, Calas Jr. He claims innocents; however, as the court (and most of France) was against Protestant at the time, somehow it's seen as a religious murder, Papa Calas having done his son in for wanting to convert to Catholicism. In fact, Papa was just attempting to cover up his son's suicide, not wanting the church to revoke his son's entry into heaven. Meanwhile, Voltaire (yes, the actual Voltaire) starts a campaign to free Papa Calas once he's been found guilty; however, all is too late. On March 10, 1762, Papa Calas died, tortured to death on the wheel, St. Catharine-style. His sentence was revoked 3 years later.  

Now, who doesn't want that slice of history on their livingroom wall?!