New York is a city of many museums, with no shortage for creative types to choose from: From the MoMA to the Rubin and seemingly everything in between. And while the city is home to the world’s largest collection of old posters—Philip Williams Posters—there is no poster museum. That’s set to change in late 2018 with the opening of Poster House.
The new museum offers a look at posters as works of design or art—and also in their social context. Posters occupy a particular space between advertising and art. In the words of Poster House’s director, Julia Knight, “They are intended for a mass audience, and you don’t need any special knowledge to decipher them. . . . They are windows into a specific time and place that tell you what was happening, what was cool, what was appealing at that moment.”
This approach—and the decision to focus on posters themselves—should make visiting Poster House feel as educational as entertaining, giving visitors a multi-dimensional experience filled great posters.
Speaking of great posters, the museum’s organizers have quietly collected a pool of more than a thousand pieces, including works by Milton Glaser, Shepard Fairey, and others. A relationship with Cooper Hewitt (through advisory board member Ellen Lupton) lets the museum show a wider variety of work. When it opens, Poster House will have with cycling exhibitions, a growing permanent collection, and frequent events.
Essential to a successful design museum is a well-designed logo, and Poster House makes the cut. Advisory board member and Pentagram partner Paula Scher designed the visual identity. The logotype’s flat edges create a frame for any kind of poster image that might be inserted. The type is sturdy and offers flexibility; it can be used horizontally, vertically, short or wide.
The museum is taking over a Chelsea neighborhood space formerly occupied by Tekserve, the local-favorite Mac repair shop. This means there are sledgehammers and dumpsters along the path to opening. Interior demolition and rebuilding will take much of next year, in preparation for a Winter 2018 opening.
For a glimpse at Poster House’s collection and pre-demolition space, you can stop by the 23rd Street location for an exhibit called Gone Tomorrow. The venue is not yet a museum; Curator Angelina Lippert has achieved a naturally raw-looking presentation for Gone Tomorrow. Posters hang either as collages on the old glass or metal display walls, or on seemingly stolen plywood sheets with clear “POST NO BILLS” warnings still intact.
As a preview of Poster House’s educational goal, each poster’s information panel includes not only the publisher and the design credit, but also the current status of the venue. For example, The Red Parrot, the location for Divine and Nona Hendryx, was “demolished along with the rest of its block to make room for Via, a luxury residential building,” and Harlow’s, “New York’s most exciting Discotheque,” is now a Chinese restaurant.
While you have to wait a year to visit Poster House, you can see Gone Tomorrow through November 1. Visitors must make appointments, so if you are in New York and want to satisfy a creative craving beyond the Whitney, e-mail Poster House to arrange a tour.