28 February until 20 September 2020
The Poster
200 Years of Art and History

With nearly 400 exhibits by around 200 artists and designers, the exhibition The Poster at the Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg (MKG) offers a large-scale, representative overview of the history of the poster from its beginnings in the early nineteenth century to today. Art and history, design and advertising meet in this medium. Posters accompany political events as well as film and theatre history. They document social developments while also reflecting changing artistic styles. Campaign posters feature portraits of politicians and concert posters those of musicians, manufacturers advertise new products and the tourist industry the most beautiful destinations – even websites are being promoted today with posters. There is no other art genre that pervades our everyday lives to such an extent. The notable Polish poster artist Jan Lenica said in 1966: “The poster undoubtedly has a function, it has a mission, and it must do justice to this duty. But its meaning lies not in what it is supposed to convey but in what it has to say.” And good posters send a multi-layered message that goes beyond mere advertising to make a statement on the times, on design, and on history, fashion, or taste. This is the “added value” that can turn a poster into a work of art.

Posters experienced a heyday around 1900 in the era of Art Nouveau, later with the Art Deco style and the avant-garde movements of the 1920s, and again in the 1960s. Whenever art and everyday life converge, as in Art Nouveau, in the Bauhaus period, or in Pop Art, the boundaries between applied and fine art become blurred. This has given rise to posters that are still admired today as artistic highlights of their time. Examples include the famous lithographs by Toulouse-Lautrec and Alfons Mucha, as well as, thirty years later, the movie posters by the Stenberg brothers in Moscow and Cassandre’s compositions in Paris. The exhibition presents the leading poster artists, most of whom are known far too little in Germany, and their characteristic and important works.

Kindly supported by the Hubertus Wald Stiftung, the Ernst von Siemens Kunststiftung and the Zeit-Stiftung Ebelin und Gerd Bucerius.

Image: Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (1864–1901), Ambassadeurs – Aristide Bruant dans son cabaret (Detail), 1892, colour lithography, 138 x 96,5 cm, MKG, Public Domain


In the course of othe exhibition we created 20 stickers out of various posters from the MK&G collection. The stickers are available for WhatsApp, iMessage and Telegram. Enjoy chatting with beautiful poster motives!