The timeline of Czech poster art spans the Art Nouveau playbills of Alfons Mucha, continues on through the elegant First Republic travel poster, and takes a weird and wonderful turn with the surrealist film prints produced behind the Iron Curtain.
As an early Christmas gift to lovers of vintage graphic design, a new museum in Prague intends to honor the colorful legacy of this bold art form.
Hundreds of posters of Czechoslovak origin will go on permanent display at Malá Strana’s House at the Golden Grapes, a building with its own historical pedigree—the 15th-century residence was once home to Jan Hus’ lawyer; during World War II it was bombed during an American flyover.
The museum, due to open to the public later this month, belongs to Prague businessman Glenn Spicker, an avid poster collector who has spent twenty-three years amassing his current collection.
Don’t call it a passion project says Mr. Spicker. The museum’s primary aim is preservation, keeping an important part of the nation’s identity here in the Czech capital.
“Our oldest poster is from 1897,” says Mr. Spicker. “Some of the works here represent the earliest poster art in the Czech lands.”
While Mr. Spicker says that he is currently in talks with Marcus Mucha, the artist’s great-grandson, to borrow a piece from the family archive, the museum will open with two exhibits representing the design of a later era.
Rooms devoted to “Retro Food Porn” and “Shopping Behind the Iron Curtain” showcase everything from a Josef Lada-inked ad for meat products to illustrated campaigns for Pilsner Urquell and Baťa shoes. A third display, “Street Art,” features Tesla radios, Skoda automobiles, and other innovations from the Communist era.
Future exhibits will draw on private collections with loans from Prague shop Terry Posters which specializes in the abstract, often subversive film posters of the 1960s-1980s, as well Nicholas Lowry, president of Swann Auction Galleries in New York, an Antiques Roadshow appraiser whose travel posters celebrate the stylized era of Zdeněk Rykr and the 1936 Paris World Fair.
Speaking to the particular allure of vintage posters, Dr. Marta Sylvestrová, curator of the graphic design collection at the Moravian Gallery Brno, says the works, “Resemble the timeline in which people live—concentrating the smells and images of history and time into a visual language.”
It’s this mix of nostalgia and curiosity that Mr. Spicker hopes will appeal to both a Czech audience and those visiting Prague.
Set to open on December 15, the Czech Poster Museum also houses a modern-design café and a gift shop selling replica posters and locally made design objects.
Photos by Jan Purkrábek.