In the pre-Twitter world, posters were an essential tool of communication – to put across anti-establishment messages in a bright and bold way. And to mark the 50-year anniversary since 1968 – the landmark year of protests in Paris and social unrest around the world – Molenbeek-based MIMA (Millennium Iconoclast Museum of Art) is showcasing some 450 posters from 1968-1973.
The exhibition, “Get Up Stand Up: The voice of the people before social media,” curated by Michaël Lellouche, with art direction from MIMA founders Raphaël Cruyt and Alice van den Abeele, opens May 9 and runs until September 30.
The show explores class struggle and social unrest of the late 1960s, focusing on the young Left generation’s angry mood of the times. The posters were their way of showing dissatisfaction at the Vietnam war, at capitalism or at just the bourgeoisie in general.
Stars of the show include the upclenched fist “Power to the People” and blood-red ‘anti-Vietnam’ poster. The latter is emblazoned “this vacation visit beautiful Vietnam” – with a battle, not beautiful tourist sights, depicted underneath the heading.
The fight was also, even 50 years ago, increasingly environmental. MIMA also highlights posters urging the public to “Boycott whale products”.
The simple, striking images were printed on newspaper rolls. The new, quick technique of screen printing suited these agitprop posters perfectly, MIMA said.
The exhibition notably includes several posters created in Paris. Here artists from the Atelier Populaire group sat in Paris’s prestigious Ecole des Beaux-Arts, churning out posters day and night.
‘We were the only ones who were working. It was very gratifying: the whole country was on strike except for us!” Atelier artist Gérard Fromanger recalled in the UK’s ‘Tate Papers’ research journal, adding: “We had never worked so hard in our lives!”
As well as the Paris posters, curator Lellouche has also amassed a wonderful collection of posters made in Prague, Athens and London. The themes span 30 countries and five continents.
Ironically, these posters emanating struggle were never intended for decoration or display in what 1960s activists would have seen as “bourgeois” places of culture – like Paris’s Palais des Beaux Arts whose “Images en Lutte [battle]” exhibition of extreme Left art 1968-1973 runs until May 20.
And certainly, selling was out of the question, the UK’s ‘Guardian’ newspaper wrote May 5. But the Atelier Populaire’s posters are fetching undemocratically high prices in London’s Royal Academy Original Print Fair and Mayfair’s Lazinc gallery.
The Brussels Times