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Exhibition Posters

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 record.


Quick Facts

  • 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 Glaser
  • 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

Recommended Items at Auction

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Henryk Tomaszewski, Poland (1914-2005), Pralnia, 1981, Tym Teatr Na Woli, Original Exhibition Poster, Colour offset lithograph
Feb 26, 11:00 AM AEDT
Henryk Tomaszewski, Poland (1914-2005), Pralnia, 1981, Tym Teatr Na Woli, Original Exhibition Poster, Colour offset lithograph
by Theodore Bruce Auctioneers & Valuers
Est: AUD80- AUD120
AUD24016 Bids
Paul Guiramand, France (1926-2007), Galerie Andre Weil, Du 15 Au 30 Mai 1961, Original Exhibition Poster
Feb 26, 11:00 AM AEDT
Paul Guiramand, France (1926-2007), Galerie Andre Weil, Du 15 Au 30 Mai 1961, Original Exhibition Poster
by Theodore Bruce Auctioneers & Valuers
Est: AUD80- AUD120
AUD1007 Bids
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Patrick Nagel - Commemorative #15 - 1986 Serigraph 24" x 36"
Mar 19, 11:15 AM EDT
Patrick Nagel - Commemorative #15 - 1986 Serigraph 24" x 36"
by DUMBO Auctions
Est: $125- $250
$903 Bids
A glass framed poster of Folon - Galerie Librairie du Fleuve. Bordeaux 1974 78 x 58cm
Feb 27, 7:00 PM AEDT
A glass framed poster of Folon - Galerie Librairie du Fleuve. Bordeaux 1974 78 x 58cm
by Lawsons
Est: AUD40- AUD60
AUD353 Bids
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Maurice REALIER-DUMAS (1860-1928) Affiche - 1895
Mar 13, 10:30 AM CET
Maurice REALIER-DUMAS (1860-1928) Affiche - 1895
by Artcurial
Est: €300- €400
€1502 Bids
Toulouse Lautrec Orangerie Des Tuileries Paris
Mar 03, 10:00 AM PST
Toulouse Lautrec Orangerie Des Tuileries Paris
by Global Auctions Company
Est: $200- $250
$1601 Bid
Arnulf Rainer, Austria (b. 1929), "Hiroshima" Malmo Konsthall 1 juli - 14 aug 1983, Original Exhibtion Poster, Colour lithograph
Feb 26, 11:00 AM AEDT
Arnulf Rainer, Austria (b. 1929), "Hiroshima" Malmo Konsthall 1 juli - 14 aug 1983, Original Exhibtion Poster, Colour lithograph
by Theodore Bruce Auctioneers & Valuers
Est: AUD80- AUD120
AUD401 Bid
ALBERTO GIACOMETTI - PORTRAIT D'HOMME
Feb 27, 6:00 PM CET
ALBERTO GIACOMETTI - PORTRAIT D'HOMME
by TGP Auction
Est: CHF80- CHF100
CHF501 Bid
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Tom Wesselmann - Galleria Plura - 1984 Offset Lithograph 23.75" x 39"
Mar 05, 11:15 AM EST
Tom Wesselmann - Galleria Plura - 1984 Offset Lithograph 23.75" x 39"
by DUMBO Auctions
Est: $300- $450
$2001 Bid
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Robert Rauschenberg - Portrait of Merce - 1984 Offset Lithograph 29.5" x 19.25"
Mar 05, 11:15 AM EST
Robert Rauschenberg - Portrait of Merce - 1984 Offset Lithograph 29.5" x 19.25"
by DUMBO Auctions
Est: $200- $300
$501 Bid

Sellers Who Sell Exhibition Posters


Theodore Bruce Auctioneers & Valuers

Theodore Bruce Auctioneers & Valuers

DUMBO Auctions

DUMBO Auctions

TGP Auction

TGP Auction

The Rug Life Auctions

The Rug Life Auctions