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The Presence of the Past—
A Sale of Rarely Seen Posters
by Roland Arkell

 

NEW YORK, N.Y. –– Poster Auctions International, Inc. (PAI) auctioned a collection of over 50 rare, original propaganda posters on Sunday, October 28, as part of the firm’s Rare Poster Auction #76. The collection included posters from World Wars I and II, the inter-war period, the beginnings of the Cold War, the Cuban Revolution and more.

The sale, held online at posterauctions.com, and in the PAI Gallery in lower Manhattan, featured 475 lots, including lithographs, maquettes, oil paintings and illustrations, plus rare books, with item estimates ranging from $500 to $350,000.

Lots included works of iconic giants such as Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, A. M. Cassandre, Alphonse Mucha, Keith Haring, Andy Warhol, H. R. Hopps, James Montgomery Flagg, Howard Chandler Christy, Jules Cheret, Leonetto Cappiello, El Lissitzky, Theophile Steinlen and Yokoo. Most of the posters and maquettes came from the Belle Epoque and Art Deco periods. Posters dealt with issues of a century ago.

Poster art is transitory and is meant primarily for impact in the instant of eyeballing. This is why original poster art is so important and why this collection was so interesting to “affichomaniacs,” as poster enthusiasts are called, but also to anyone working at the intersection of media, culture and society.

The propaganda collection included multiple famous works by James Montgomery Flagg (I Want You for U.S. Army) and Howard Chandler Christy (Gee! I Wish I Were a Man), the two most prominent American posterists of the First World War. The entire collection, though, went far beyond that.

Posters in the collection showcased the dialogue between the competing socialist parties of post-WWI Europe, the sparking and inflaming of anti-Semitic sentiment during the inter-war period, the various modes of American propaganda, post-WWI humanitarian outreach, propaganda in Vichy France, and exceptionally rare work by Fidel Castro’s chief propaganda artist.

Highlights from the auction included Toulouse-Lautrec’s first poster, the 1891 Moulin Rouge/La Goulue, which established the artist’s worldwide fame, estimated to sell for . $300,000-$350,000), plus numerous other famous and rare Lautrecs, including Le Jockey (est. $40,000-$50,000); P. Sescau / Photographe ($60,000-$70,000) and L’Anglais au Moulin Rouge, rarely seen at auction (est. $100,000-$120,000).

From A. M. Cassandre came four separate prints of his world-famous Art Deco triumph, Normandie – all from the opulent oceanliner’s inaugural cruise year of 1935, with slightly different text variants. It’s the first time all four 1935 lithographs were offered simultaneously (est. $10,000-$18,000).

Thirty posters, decorative panels, maquettes and other material by Alphonse Mucha came up for bid, including special printings of the 1897 and 1900 The Seasons set (est. $10,000-$40,000); and the finest specimen of the 1897 Monaco-Monte-Carlo PAI has ever seen (est. $17,000-$20,000). Also sold was a superb lithograph of Bernhardt’s Lorenzaccio (est. $14,000-$17,000).

Twenty-three posters, rare books and unique items from the Russian Avant-Garde – including Lissitzky’s Beat the Whites with the Red Wedge (est. $3,500-$4,000) and Victory Over the Sun: Anxious People (est. $17,000-$20,000)—conveniently coincided with a major exhibition on the period now on view at New York’s Jewish Museum.

Eighteen works by Chéret, including three variants of Palais de Glace (est. $1,000-$5,000) and three original studies, two in pastel, and one oil painting (est. $10,000-$20,000) came under the gavel; while 27 posters and maquettes by Cappiello, including famous works such as the Maurin Quina (est. $2,000-$2,5000) and Parapluie-Revel (est. $3,000-$10,000) plus magnificent rarities like the 1927 Sizaire (est. $8,000-$10,000) will also be on offer.

Steinlen’s iconic Chat Noir (est. $6,000-$8,000) and the rare Motocycles Comiot (est. $20,000-$25,000) were also included in the sale, as were unusual items, such as an 18th-century, pre-French Revolution poster for the French Guard ($2,000-$2,500); and posters by Haring (est. $1,000-$2,000), Warhol (est. $30,000-$35,000) and Yokoo (est. $1,000-$2,000).

Also in the auction are rare and important propaganda posters from World War I to the Cuban Revolution, to include multiple lithographs by Flagg, Christy, Biró, and Rivadulla (Destroy this Mad Brute, Des Libérateurs, aka The Red Poster, and others); and a rarely seen 1925 maquette for singer-dancer Josephine Baker, by Colin (est. $10,000-$12,000).

For more information, please visit http://www.rennertsgallery.com/ and http://www.rennertsgallery.com/propaganda-lxxvi-rare-posters/

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