Since the dawn of cinema, posters have played a key role in publicizing films. Posters put a movie on the streets and captivate the imagination. The exhibition The Big Screen: Film Posters of All Time presents three hundred original film posters dating from the early 1900s to the 2020s, all chosen from the Graphic Design Collection at the Kunstbibliothek (Art Library), Kulturforum, with the help of international guests from the film world.
Every movie needs a poster. Even in the digital era, it is the most important tool for visual communication. A good film poster is both an advertisement and an artwork. It condenses the film’s plot into a single powerful image, capturing the atmosphere and introducing the main characters. A film poster sparks curiosity without revealing too much. It astonishes, amuses, and perplexes – it sparks excitement, memories, exhilaration, and admiration.
The first film posters appeared in cities shortly after the cinematograph was invented in 1895. With three hundred posters on display, this exhibition traces the history of the film poster from 1905 until today, from the narrative expressionist lithographs of the silent-film era and the world-renowned 1960s graphic designs for Neue Filmkunst and Atlas, to today’s designs poised between paper and pixel. Posters from France, Poland, the US, and other countries appear alongside works from Germany. Spanning twelve decades, this exhibition quite literally presents film posters of all time.
What defines a good film poster is very much in the eye of the beholder. Personal preferences and experiences each play an important role. This is why The Big Screen is curated in collaboration with twenty-six film industry professionals who helped to select the film posters from over 5,000 objects held in the Graphic Design Collection. In cooperation with the Berlinale, these individuals from the worlds of acting, directing, movie theater management, film studies, art, and graphic design were each invited to choose their favorite poster. They explain their choices in an accompanying audioguide.
The contributors are Anna Berkenbusch, Christian Bräuer, Carlo Chatrian, Adrian Curry, Thea Ehre, Maryna Er Gorbach, Liv Lisa Fries, Maria Fuchs, Douglas Gordon, Graf Haufen, Ella Lee, Natalie MacMahon, Vasilis Marmatakis, Lemohang Mosese, Maximilian Mundt, Elfi Mikesch, Helke Misselwitz, Ulrike Ottinger, Asli Özge, Kida Khodr Ramadan, Mariette Rissenbeek, Pierre Sanoussi-Bliss, Albrecht Schuch, Simon Spiegel, Verena von Stackelberg, and Jasmin Tabatabai.
The guests’ selection ranges from film classics such as The Golem to cult films like Rocky Horror Picture Show and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. There are works by Isolde Baumgart, Helmut Brade, Dorothea Fischer-Nosbisch, Hans Hillmann, among other outstanding graphic designers. And the chronological overview of film posters includes blockbusters such as Jaws, Star Wars, and Lord of the Rings, as well as posters for art house and independent films spanning Neorealismo, New Hollywood, and work by Pedro Almodóvar. The star exhibit is for Metropolis, an oversized poster (2.20 x 3 m) designed by Boris Bilinsky in 1927, which is thought to be the only copy held by a museum. The exhibition ends with fan art, hand-painted oversized posters by Götz Valien, and a peek at the current acquisition strategy.
Naturally you’ll find moving images in the exhibition, too. An integrated “preview theater” shows opening scenes and title sequences, presented in visual dialogue with the posters. Children are also invited to “Follow Paula Popcorn!” This mascot leads them on the family trail, with interactive stations for listening, touching, playing, and drawing.
The Kunstbibliothek is a museum with an extensive and historic collection of graphic design works. The library previously showed exhibitions of film posters in its galleries in 1959 (for the 9th International Film Festival) and 1975 (for the 25th Film Festival). In 2024, The Big Screen will run in tandem with the 74th Film Festival next-door at neighbouring Potsdamer Platz.
The exhibition is curated by Christina Thomson, Head of the Graphic Design Collection, and Christina Dembny, co-curator.
Cooperation and advice: Kristina Jaspers and Peter Mänz (Deutsche Kinemathek), Mariette Rissenbeek and Melika Gothe (Berlin International Film Festival), Helmut Hamm (filmposter.net) and Tom Luther.
A richly illustrated catalogue has been published on the occasion of the exhibition by Sandstein Verlag (circa 230 pages, German/English).
The Big Screen is accompanied by an array of outreach events and educational offerings, including guided tours, workshops, expert talks, excursions, silent film evenings, and more (programme flyer – PDF, 628 KB). A symposium scheduled for 23 and 24 February 2024 will examine film posters from a critical contemporary perspective (programme – PDF, 527 KB).
The educational programme is supported by Berliner Sparkasse.
Media cooperations: Der Tagesspiegel, Exberliner, tipBerlin and Yorck Kinogruppe
A special exhibition by the Kunstbibliothek, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin in collaboration with the Berlin International Film Festival and the Deutsche Kinemathek
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