HomeDesignArt Deco Advertisements in the Spotlight at Poster House

Art Deco Advertisements in the Spotlight at Poster House


This article is part of our Design Specials section on new interpretations of ancient design styles.


Between the 1920s and World War II, illustrators and designers reduced color bands across advertisements to entice consumers with faster modes of travel and smarter machinery. The era’s frenzied pace of change is vividly represented in the posters that hang in the home of collectors William and Elaine Krauss, and they partially deny their walls to lend 58 pieces to “Art Deco: Commercializing the Avant-Garde.” exhibition which opens September 28 at Poster House in New York City.

Angelina Lippert, Poster House’s chief curator and director of content, described the show as “the first world history of Art Deco posters organized in a museum”. The works targeted potential customers for Japanese trains, American racecars, Swiss clothing, Swedish tires, Dutch glassware, Italian liqueurs, French cigarettes, Cuban cigars and sporting events in Poland, Israel, Argentina and Uruguay.

In an ad for Krause’s collection, for Britain’s Imperial Airways, a passenger sinks into an oversized black armchair buoyed by clouds, ready for a long flight to New Zealand and South Africa with a stiff drink.

In an exhibition poster for the French newspaper L’Intransigeant, Ukrainian-born artist AM Cassandre depicts the face of a news reporter making headlines for his renewed journalism through the global telegraph network.

Rich metallic ink shimmers on the poster surface, between the logo and short text in the newly invented faceted and squiggly letter style. Inspired by the latest experimental art movement, painters abstracted human faces into rectangles and discs and depicted fashionable customers dressed in Cubist patchwork clothing.

Traditional motifs also influenced the design of the era; In an Australian tourism ad by artist Gert Selheim, a migrant from Eastern Europe, coral reef-dwelling angelfish emit a stream of bubbles that evoke the dot pattern used by Aboriginal Australians.

Mr. Krause, who has long worked as a biotech venture capitalist, said that in collecting more than 1,000 posters, he was particularly drawn to examples of “clean geometric lines and bright colors.” Poster House works as large as Cassandre’s advertisement for a French furniture store, 13 feet tall, a silhouetted lumberjack cutting down a tree against a twilight sky background. A crane was needed to remove the poster from the third-floor hallway of Krause’s Florida home.

The couple’s other collection includes Art Deco glassware and cocktail shakers, which, historically, were used to make and serve drinks with the same ingredients advertised on Krause’s posters. The Krauses have lent their property over the years to the show, including an Art Deco one Survey which originated in the Victoria and Albert Museum in London and has recently toured widely previous Cooper Hewitt, designer at the Smithsonian Design Museum. The work of McKnight Kaufer.

To fill the void created by the debt on the poster house, the Krauses removed stair and bathroom pieces and brought others out of storage to re-hang in more prominent locations. “Some of my favorite posters are in the show,” Mr. Kruse said, but for a few months, he added, “we’ll live without them.”



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