[Main] - [The Posters]


by Cesar Nammour  *

The AUB collection of 177 art posters dates from the early sixties until the late twentieth century. Although the posters announce, mainly, individual painting and sculpture exhibitions, the collection includes group and theme art exhibits, plays and musical recitals, movies, conferences and environmental awareness posters.

The art poster in Lebanon got a quick start in the mid-sixties with the multiplication of art exhibitions in Beirut (starting with Yousef El Khal's Gallery One). It reached its golden age in the early seventies with the increase in number of art galleries (the most prominent were Contact Art Gallery, Dar El Fan Wal'adab, Centre d'Art, Gallerie d'Art Contemporain, Delta Gallery, Modulart Gallery ...) and art events in the cultural centers (JFK Center, Goethe Institute, Centre Culturel Français, Centre Cervantes ...) and in Beirut's hotels (Phoenicia, Vendôme, Carlton, Commodore ...). The poster was the sign of prestige for the gallery, and was regarded a required instrument of promotion for the exhibit and the artist inspite of its limited exposure. Poster production continued during the eighties inspite of the war and the reduced number of galleries (Damo Gallery, El Rimal Gallery, Les Cimaises, Planula, Elissar...), but practically disappeared in the nineties when the gallery goers, who were mainly in Ras Beirut, had moved to different parts of the country.

The art poster in Lebanon reflected the widespread trend of art poster movement in Paris which came about with the flourishing of the art market in the fifties, and with the growth of the Paris School of painting after World War One. The French influence is obvious in its conception. It was a sign of prestige, and was the gallery's, as well as the artist's poster.

Posters were mainly distributed in Ras Beirut along Hamra street and its side streets to announce an event. They were attached to the glass doors and windows of shops for passers-by to see.

The art poster production evolved during the last four decades but conformed basically to its original principles as to format, composition, lettering, coloring, paper and printing.

Theater and cinema posters were the forerunners of the art posters in the fifties. Their elements clattered the surface with a lot of information. The printing was in one or two colors, on cheap, often colored paper. Probably all the posters of the plays that Antoine Kerbaj acted in between 1972 and 1998 are included in the collection.

The format of the art poster was a rectangle of a variety of sizes, measuring about 40 x 70 cm. And were rarely square in shape. Larger sizes were produced by Sursok Museum, Platform Gallery posters of Hussein Madi's exhibitions and the posters of the environment protection societies. The art poster consisted of four elements: a picture of an art piece, the name of the artist, date of opening and duration of the exhibit, as well as the name of the gallery and its address. These elements were often kept separate on a colored background.

The pictorial element, which was a reproduction of a work by the artist, had a pro-minent and well-defined space. The picture was selected for effectiveness. The lettering was always concise, giving prominence to the name of the artist. Upper case bold lettering was used for the artist, middle case for the name of the gallery, and lower case for other details. Lettering was often separate from the pictorial element for visual effectiveness, and thin lines and lettering were avoided as the poster was viewed one to two meters away by the passers-by. Very few posters were bilingual.

Art posters used simple, restricted color schemes, clear and gay, without gradations and play on tonality. The graphic work was neat and clear and tended to keep the same layout in each gallery.

The art posters were produced by the art galleries and the cultural centers to announce exhibitions to the public. They were oriented towards the educated elite to emphasize the artistic event. It was a useful, aesthetically attractive mean of advertising an event through brevity and concise communication. However, its effectiveness was limited by its display space in shops.

The art poster acquired an esthetic value; quality was often emphasized in the selection of paper, design and printing. Thus it attracted collectors and became an important element in decorating young peoples' quarters who were attracted to the commercial poster when the free art poster was not available.

March 2002

* CESAR NAMMOUR: Industrialist, town developer, and art critic. Followed closely the plastic arts movement in Lebanon since 1959, and co-founded Contact Art Gallery in Beirut (1972 - 1977), gallery Les Cimaises in Zouk-Mosbeh, Lebanon in 1987, and Art et Culture in Zouk-Mosbeh in 1993. Published more than one hundred articles in Lebanese newspapers, and lectured on Lebaneses sculpture and painting in Lebanon. Participated in many juries to select works for exhibitions and for giving prizes. Published a booklet Modern Art Museum In Lebanon in 1987, and two books Sculpture In Lebanon in 1990, and Joseph Basbous-Sculpture in 2001. Member of The Lebanese Association of Art Critics in (1998), and President of Contemporary Art Society (1997). Founded the Model Town of Alita - Jbeil (1985). Teaches a course Art Appreciation in the Extension Program at AUB, and member of the AUB Arts Center Project.

Created by the Digital Documentation Center at AUB in collaboration with Al Mashriq of Høgskolen i Østfold, Norway.

20020313/bl - Email: library@aub.edu.lb