The 1990s are known as the Golden Age of Ghanaian hand-painted film posters. These images brilliantly combine Ghana’s rich tradition of painting with the culture’s insatiable appetite for foreign and domestic film that began with the country’s adaption of the VHS tape in the mid-1980s. Unlike its neighboring African countries which had outposts run by Western production companies like Fox, Ghana’s military dictatorships of the 1970s and 1980s prevented that type of outside influence. Alternatively, a black market developed for American films, with local “video clubs” distributing the VHS & PAL tapes alongside hand-painted posters to industrious entrepreneurs eager to set up a portable movie theater.
These distributors commissioned posters on canvas from local artists who, for the most part, were professional sign painters. Not necessarily seeing the movies before they were leased out, these artists drew from box covers, film stills, and primarily their imaginations when creating outlandish, exhilarating designs meant to titialte and excite passersby into wanting to see the latest movie. Horror and action proved to be the most popular genres, the more extreme the composition the better—an explosion becomes a wall of fire; heroes now find that even their clothing has muscles.
This show focuses on the “Golden Age” because the posters from this period were meant for a local audience—they were aimed at attracting rural Ghanaians who were not used to viewing films into wanting to see this type of technological pageantry and storytelling. After the year 2000, tourists began to express interest in these fantastical objects, driving the prices up and creating a new market where artists painted these “posters” explicitly for export. This exhibition only shows posters targeting locals, highlighting regional styles that emerged between the coastal and inland areas, different artistic hands that became famous during the period, and the types of visual signifiers Ghanaians expected and loved to see in their own advertising.
Mon, *Wed, Thu - Sun 11am – 6pm
*Member Hours: Wed 9am – 11am
Seniors 62 & over $8
Kids 18 & under Free
Visitors with disabilities $8*
*Free admission for 1 accompanying care partner
119 W. 23rd Street
New York, NY