Auctions | April 21, 2016

Swann Galleries' May Graphic Design Auction Showcases Modernist Posters & Ephemera

Lot-129-Cassandre copy.jpgNew York—On Tuesday, May 10, Swann Galleries will hold an auction of Graphic Design, with posters and ephemera that highlight the shifting trends in imagery and typography styles starting in the late 1800s and moving through the 20th-century.  

            The sale is headlined by several items designed by Ukrainian-French artist and designer Adolph Mouron Cassandre, including Champions du Monde, 1930, a rare poster showing a shadowy reader engrossed in a novel (estimate: $25,000 to $35,000). In addition to Cassandre posters, the sale features more than twenty lots of Cassandre-designed items, ranging from a group of book covers and illustrations from the 1950s-60s ($600 to $900) to a 1951 Hermès silk scarf ($800 to $1,200).

            Another highpoint in this sale is a run of posters by American designer Lester Beall. Inspired by the work of European avant-garde artists, Beall used primary colors and clean, simple typography to achieve effective visual communication. Several of his posters, like Rural Electrification Administration, 1939 ($20,000 to $30,000), utilize techniques like photomontage while others, like his 1937 poster for the same organization, focus on clean lines and basic shapes to convey information ($15,000 to $20,000).

            Beall was one of the first American designers to incorporate tactics from the New Typography movement, which rejected the traditional ideas of informational arrangement and allowed designers and artists to focus on the poster as a blank field on which to compose, much like a canvas. German designer and typographer Jan Tschichold was one of the fathers of this movement, and his 1938 poster Der Berufsphotograph ($12,000 to $18,000) is also included in the sale.

            Several of the posters in this auction have great historical significance. Italian artist, poet and theorist Filippo Tommaso Marinetti's Futurismo, commemorates the April 15, 1919 confrontation between the rising Fascist movement and communists ($8,000 to $12,000). Marinetti authored the Futurist manifesto for the avant-garde art and social movement of the same name, which championed technology, speed and youth. Another poster harkening back to the early days of an avant-garde art movement is Marcel Janco’s 1re Exposition Dada / Galerie Corray, 1917 ($7,000 to $10,000) announcing the first Dada exhibition, which included works not by the Dada group themselves, but cubist paintings and African art borrowed from gallery owner Hans Corray and mounted by Tristan Tzara.

            The sale also features a run of works by celebrated French poster artist Paul Colin, including his poster for André Renaud, 1929, a virtuoso famous for playing two pianos at a time ($8,000 to $12,000). Other highlights include Niklaus Stoecklin’s hyperrealistic 1941 Binaca / Zahnpaste ($5,000 to $7,500), Sándor Bortnyik’s 1929 Modiano ($5,000 to $7,500).  Secession posters by multiple Austrian and Czech artists, like Berthold Löffler’s 1908 Kaiser Huldigungs Festzug ($7,000 to $10,000), and Emanuel Josef Margold’s 1907 Rudolfinum Ausstellung Des Verienes Deutscher Bildender Künstler in Böhmen, advertising an exhibition of German artists in Prague ($4,000 to $6,000).

            The sale finishes with contemporary items from the mid-to-late 20th century, such as Mary Viera’s sparse Brasilien Baut Brasilia, 1957 ($4,000 to $6,000). Also featured are two posters related to Andy Warhol, Andy Warhol / Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston, 1966, which advertises the artist’s second solo museum exhibition ($6,000 to $9,000); and the artist’s Andy Warhol’s ‘The Chelsea Girls,’ 1966, advertising his first commercially successful film ($4,000 to $6,000). The sale also includes a run of works by Japanese graphic design master Tadanori Yokoo, such as his bright Word / Image, 1968 ($3,000 to $4,000).

The auction will be held Tuesday, May 10, beginning at 1:30 p.m. The auction preview will be open to the public Saturday, May 7 from noon to 5 p.m.; Monday, May 9 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; and Tuesday, May 10 from 10 a.m. to noon.

An illustrated auction catalogue is available for $35 from Swann Galleries, Inc., 104 East 25th Street, New York, NY 10010, or online at

For further information or to make advance arrangements to bid by telephone during the auction, please contact Swann President and Director of Vintage Posters, Nicholas D. Lowry at 212-254-4710, extension 57 or

Image: Lot 129

A. M. Cassandre, Champions du Monde, 1930. Estimate $25,000 to $35,000.