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Communist Posters

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Beautifully arrayed, the posters in this collection offer a comprehensive look at the broad range of visual works that have both expressed and fueled one of the most powerful political ideas of the modern era. Russian and international collectors are enthralled by the history, subject matter and extraordinary graphic imagery of posters produced from 1917 to 1991. Prices have increased considerably since the Soviet Union broke up. Chisholm Larsson's founder, Robert Chisholm, says that posters bought in 1991 are probably worth three-times the amount today. In some cases they could be worth much more. Lowry said it is impossible to tell whether Soviet poster prices will continue to rise, but history suggests the best and rarest works by important artists will. No particular genre is the most collectible, said specialists. Instead, the age of the poster and artist are integral to establishing value.

Russian Revolution: Ten propaganda posters from 1917 - BBC News Russian Revolution: Ten propaganda posters from 1917 - BBC News

For those fascinated by Soviet graphic design and communist history, posters are an easy way to start a collection. Their topics touch on the environment, health, film and space exploration, as well as classic propaganda, depicting Lenin, Soviet workers and Stalin's five-year plans.

Often, poster makers were hired in-house by theaters, operas, and museums. This resulted in many unique perspectives on popular films. More often than not, Polish artists avoided a "literal translation of the plot" and instead sought to express the overall mood of the movie. The artists' work was so admired that the city of Krakow announced the first "International Exposition of the Poster" in 1898. Its organizer, Jan Wdowiszewski, believed that posters should combine artistic and utilitarian value, present a critical view of reality, and fit in at both art galleries and alleyways. There's no question that many Polish posters fit that description. There are some hungry, aggressive poster collectors and you're speaking to one of them,” joked Dr Sergo Grigorian, a Russian collector based in London who has over 2000 political Soviet posters.

posters from the Soviet era are utterly unique These Polish posters from the Soviet era are utterly unique

In the 50s and 60s, pop culture media like film and comic books lent themselves particularly well to anti-Communist propaganda, and they were exploited relentlessly by government agencies, production companies, and corporations. Films like I Married a Communist (below) and The Red Menace (top), both from 1949, offered sensationalized pulpy takes on the red scare. We must make the young into a generation of Communists. Children, like soft wax, are very malleable and they should be moulded into good Communists... We must rescue children from the harmful influence of the family... We must nationalize them. From the earliest days of their little lives, they must find themselves under the beneficent influence of Communist schools... To oblige the mother to give her child to the Soviet state – that is our task."A new travelling exhibition organised by The Ashmolean Museum, University of Oxford explores the art made during the tumultuous decade, and includes propaganda posters, revolutionary landscapes, papercuts and household objects.

Red alert: Collecting Soviet propaganda posters - BBC Worklife Red alert: Collecting Soviet propaganda posters - BBC Worklife

Older posters can fetch much higher prices. Pre-Second World War Soviet posters, in particular, are in demand. Though most Soviet posters were produced in print runs of 30,000 to 60,000, they were meant to be posted on walls and then disposed of, so few older examples have survived. But even though it's dead, it's certainly not forgotten. The Poster Museum in Poland houses over 50,000 vintage posters that guests can still enjoy today. Visitors can take a colorful walk down memory lane and experience some of the wildest movie posters ever created in the country. When paired with an educational system that would indoctrinate and form a “new-man” to embody the Soviet cause, it seemed that the Soviet propaganda machine--and by extension, the Soviets--was unstoppable.

The Early Days Of Poster Making In Poland

Original Soviet posters will include the print run, date and often the artist's name. Before they buy, collectors also should factor in gallery and auction house commissions and other costs. Lowry said cheaper posters can just be kept in a poster tube somewhere dry, but Grigorian insures his posters and stores them in a special art storage unit. As the perceived threat increased, so too did the scale of the monstrous caricatures. In the post-WWI era German and Norwegian posters above, Godzilla-sized Communists lay waste to entire cities. Below, in “Bolshevism Unmasked,” an example from the Second World War, the skeletal Communist destroyer straddles the entire globe.

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