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If the inherent purpose of the poster is to sell, then the exhibition poster has
perhaps the greatest compositional challenge, as it can only showcase one scene
that effectively encapsulates an entire showcase. The greatest vintage exhibition
posters accomplish this with aplomb, using captivating color and catchy text to lure
even the most reluctant visitor.
The notion of large-scale exhibition promotion truly took hold during the early
days of the world's fairs. First launched in London in 1851 at the behest of England's
Queen Victoria, who wished to showcase the world's greatest advances in industry
and technology, the concept of the large-scale showcase soon caught on elsewhere
around the world. The field of poster art caught up to this burgeoning tradition in
the latter years of the 19th century.
By the beginning of the 20th century, exhibition posters were commonplace.
From upcoming Olympic games to blockbuster art showings, the exhibition poster
evolved into an art form of its own that was equal parts artistic expression and
marketing acumen. Today, exhibition posters are cherished by poster art
aficionados for these qualities in addition to their heritage in the shared visual
Though the art of the poster developed much later, the use of the term
poster originated in the 1830s as a general reference to any advertisement or notice
displayed prominently in public
Some of history's most notable artists lent their skills to exhibition poster
design, including Art Nouveau expert Alphonse Mucha, French painter Henri de
Toulouse-Lautrec, and even late 20th century Push Pin Studio designer Milton
A poster promoting the French release of the 1938 film, "Bringing Up Baby,"
starring American actors Cary Grant and Katharine Hepburn, sold at a Christie's
London auction in late 2015 for $105,353