SHOWS THAT MATTER: MFA Boston's European Posters Highlight Street Art's Lineage

Battleship Potemkin, Anton Lavinsky, 1926, color lithograph
(Photograph © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston)

WHAT: “Art in the Street: European Posters”

WHEN: December 15, 2012 – July 21, 2013


WHERE: Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Avenue of the Arts, 465 Huntington Avenue

WHY THIS SHOW MATTERS: The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston’s “Art in the Street: European Posters” displays a very different kind of street art than the pervasive graffiti murals and wheatpaste posters found in almost every metropolitan city in the world today. The exhibition instead takes a tour of contemporary street art’s predecessor: the bold, graphic broadsides of the 1890s – 1940s advertising everything from household products to theater productions, which brought artistic styles previously only viewed in museums into the public sphere.

Though the phenomenon became widespread practice in Europe, styles varied widely depending on region, subject, and concurrent art movements. The tri-color photomontage style prevalent in Russian constructivism can be seen in Anton Lavinsky’s 1926 film flyer for Sergei Eisenstein’s “Battleship Potemkin,” and in Georgi Vladimirovich Kibardin’s 1931 “Let’s Build a Fleet of Dirigibles in Lenin’s Name,” a propaganda poster. The organic, rounded lettering and loosely rendered figures of Jules Chéret’s 1890 “Jardin de Paris” concert advertisement, in contrast, are characteristic of art nouveau. Also on view are major pieces by Wassily Kandinsky, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, and Pierre Bonnard, which further exemplify the widespread adoption of the medium among the artists of the time.

To see posters from the exhibition, click the slideshow here.