Back Page: Power of the poster reveals a bigger picture

From Toulouse Lautrec to Saatchi as exhibition hails 120-year history

THE V&A is to open an exhibition dedicated to the power of the poster and will feature some of the most famous images of modern times - some of them in full size - offering an overview of the social trends of the last 120 years.

The exhibition will include posters from Toulouse Lautrec to Saatchi and Saatchi, and from "My Goodness My Guinness" to the notorious "Hello Boys" Wonderbra campaign.

The posters, many of them international, are taken from the museum's collection of more than 10,000 originals.

A spokesman for the museum said: "The poster is a very important art form and the exhibition will show its strengths and what makes it such a powerful medium of design, publicity and persuasion.

The exhibition will be divided into three sections, Pleasure and Leisure, Protest and Propaganda and Commerce and Communication.

It will examine their role in society: from children and teenagers plastering them all over their walls in an effort to stamp their own personality on a bedroom to companies' reliance on huge billboards to draw attention to their products.

The performing arts have inspired some of the greatest poster designs such as Lautrec's paintings for the cafes of Montmartre and those for the London music halls. It was drawings such as these, dating back to the 1870s, which first prompted posters to be hailed as street art.

But the poster has also been used as an instrument of persuasion and governments and pressure groups have used it throughout the twentieth century to inform and provoke. Some of the earliest examples were Savile Lumley's "Daddy, What did YOU do in the Great War?" and Fougasse's "Careless Talk Costs Lives". More recently Saatchi and Saatchi have produced controversial election posters such as "New Labour New Danger" for the Tories.

The poster is viewed as an effective and inexpensive means of protest and has been used to further many causes from votes for women to animal welfare and ban the bomb.

Perhaps the most sophisticated use of posters is in advertising. One of the most memorable in recent times was the series of posters for Benson & Hedges cigarettes. But some of the most controversial have proved the most successful, including Wonderbra and Benetton.

The exhibition opens on 2 April and runs until 26 July.

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