By now you may have heard about Poster House, the new museum about to open in NYC June 20. I have been following them for a good year and considered myself fairly skeptical about what they would be able to do.
Well, consider me Blown Away! I attended their first pre-opening event last night with Peter and Emily Bahr and the museum far exceeded what I could have imagined. The opening Exhibition is a huge retrospective of Alphonse Mucha (yes, pronounced “Moo-Kuh”) who, while not considered to the Founder of the poster art movement, is certainly in my humble option the greatest of the Belle Epoch poster artists. I have been in love with his artwork for decades and his influence is easily seen in many of the last 1960s psychedelic works by Mouse and Kelley, Moscoso and others.
Let’s start with the physical plant. The Museum is located on W. 23rd Street between 6th and 7th Ave and while the entrance is on 23rd, the museum stretches all the way back to 24th St. So as Bill Murray said about the Dali Lama (big hitter, the Lama), it is LONG. Decorated columns and exposed brick are preserved and the ceilings soar. There are three main Gallery rooms on this entry-level floor. The two larger galleries were dedicated to Mucha and the smaller gallery, called the Jewel Box, housed an exhibit on post-Berlin-Wall posters by the East German design firm, Cyan.
Downstairs there was an interactive room where people can see how a 4-color poster is made, areas to draw and other hands-on artifacts, plus another good-sized gallery room - filled with more Mucha! There are also learning spaces, and what looks like conference rooms and maybe lecture space - the museum doesn’t open for another month so it wasn’t all completely accessible. But Poster House, taken together, is expansive, lush in appointment, fresh, professional and just all around a very top-notch specialized museum. I could not help feeling the way I did visiting the Bethel Woods Museum (Woodstock) a month ago: there was serious money poured into these museums and they deliver a superb experience.
I enjoyed speaking with Director Julia Knight, President Val Crosswhite, and Curator Angelina Lippert - they are all full of energy and I think will be very successful and be turning some heads as they mine the many rich veins of poster art waiting to be newly and creatively showcased.
The current exhibitions open to the public on June 20 and run through October 6. The museum is closed on Tuesdays and open until 9pm on Friday nights - the rest of the hours are on their website here: www.posterhouse.org
Check out the slideshow and narrative below.
Alphonse Mucha, (1860-1939) was a Czech painter, illustrator and graphic artist, living in Paris during the Art Nouveau period, most well-known for his images of women. The Exhibition (Nouvelle Femme) notes that Mucha’s women were strong, independent and displaying new, self-assured power.
La Tosca Poster by Alphonse Mucha, with background by Poster House
More of Mucha's Commercial art. As we are fond of saying, "these are not posters, they're Art."
ADP District Manager Emily Bahr and Sotheby's Intern Peter Bahr at the Poster House Opening - cool images soar in the background.
Mucha did many image ads for Job, the cigarette rolling paper. Here is one of the most famous ones, let's call it "Girl with Brown Hair"
Here is Stanley Mouse and Alton Kelley's 1966 Jim Kweskin poster psychedelicizing Mucha, called "Girl with Green Hair."
Another famous "Job Girl" poster by Mucha.
Ted Bahr with Curator Angelina Lippert. We had been admiring each other's jackets and finally just decided to swap them!
Interestingly, the greatest private collector of Mucha's works is tennis great Ivan Lendl. This book will be for sale at Poster House and I can't wait to get a copy.