The art poster movement began in Paris in the late 1800s and spread like wildfire around the world. One of the leading French artists of the day was Alphonse Mucha, whose posters for performances by Sarah Bernhardt and the artist’s gallery Salon des Cent defined the Art Nouveau visual style. One of Mucha’s gallery-mates was Henri Toulouse-Lautrec, whose posters for the Moulin Rouge are icons of era.
Around the same time, in the United States, Maxfield Parrish was designing a poster for a poster exhibition at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. Like Parrish, Norman Rockwell produced paintings as well as commercial illustrations. The most famous of these were his covers for the Saturday Evening Post, some of which were reproduced as posters in the 1930s and 1940s.
Other artists from the first half of the 20th century to produce posters include Gustav Klimt, Marc Chagall, Alexander Calder, Rene Magritte, and Pablo Picasso.
In the 1960s, artists such as Rick Griffin, Alton Kelley, Stanley Mouse, Victor Moscoso, and Wes Wilson created psychedelic concert posters for San Francisco’s Avalon Ballroom and Fillmore Auditorium. Today, collectors treat these posters like works of art, with prices to match.
Also in that decade, and throughout the 1970s, art galleries and museums printed posters for exhibitions by everyone from New Yorker illustrator Saul Steinberg to pop artist Andy Warhol. In particular, the posters printed by Galerie Maeght in Paris are some of the loveliest on the market.
In recent years, high-quality gallery and museum posters by contemporary artists such as Keith Haring, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Annie Leibovitz, Bruce Nauman, Wayne Thiebaud, and Jeff Koons have attracted the eyes of collectors whose budgets preclude them from owning an original.
Also vibrant is the contemporary music-poster market, where artists such as Coop, Emek, Gary Houston, Harry Rossit, Christopher Peterson, and Michael Everett have seen prices for their work rise dramatically as numbered editions quickly sell out. One artist in particular, Jim Pollock, has made a name for himself creating posters for the band Phish. In many instances, Pollock posters for Phish concerts have been known to appear on eBay, at double or even triple their retail price, within 24 hours of selling out at the concert they were made to advertise.