Auctions | May 20, 2014

Wiener Werkstätte, Taller Grafica Popular & Warhol Posters Set Records at Swann Galleries


New York—The three top lots in Swann Galleries' April 24 auction of Modernist Posters each set new auction records in a sale marked by incredible results for esoteric images.

Nicholas D. Lowry, Swann President and Posters Specialist, said, “What normally would have been a two-hour auction took almost three hours, as spirited bidding from the crowded salesroom combined with buoyant online activity helped propel this auction to great success. The sale was marked by incredible results for some very esoteric images, and there is no doubt that the poster market is vibrant, and, at times, exhilarating too!”

The sale’s top lot was Bertold Löffler's Kunstschau Wien. Löffler designed this poster advertising the Gustav Klimt-organized art exhibition Kunstschau, in which there was a room dedicated to Löffler's poster art. This design is a masterful steppingstone between the heavy, often abstract ornamentation of the Vienna Secession and the cleaner, more linear designs of the Wiener Werkstätte. It sold for a record $52,500*.

Also setting a record was a group of 10 Mexican anti-Nazi posters by various artists. In 1938, the Mexican print collective, Taller Grafica Popular (TGP) began working with Liga Pro-Cultura Aleman, formed by German exiles committed to fighting the spread of fascism and Nazism in Mexico. In the fall of 1938, they held a series of weekly lectures at Mexico City's Palacio de Bellas Artes to explain negative aspects of the Nazi regime. Artists of the TGP, such as Leopoldo Mendez, Jesus Escobedo, Pablo O'Higgins, Alfredo Zalce, Angel Bracho, Raul Anguiano and Francisco Dosamantes designed posters for each of the 18 lectures and, in a few instances, more than one for the same evening's program. They are among the best and most powerful early anti-Nazi propaganda and are printed on very thin paper, so very few of have survived. The group sold for $45,000.


The auction featured a run of elusive Warholiana--and a rare piece of American film history—a poster for Andy Warhol's film My Hustler, which took on themes of homosexual obsession and aspects of gay life that were then new to the canon of American film, and was shot over an LSD-fueled Labor Day weekend on Fire Island. The film premiered in December 1965 at the Filmmakers' Cinematheque, and this poster advertises a screening in the spring of the following year. It sold for a record $31,250. Another record-setting Warhol highlight was Andy Warhol’s / Velvet Underground & Nico, 1966, a rare and fascinating piece of 1960s pop-culture history, $8,125.

Auction records were also set for Xanti Schawinsky’s Illy Caffe, 1934—which appeared on auction the catalogue cover—$15,000; and two Ballets Russes posters d’apres Pablo Picasso, Theatre des Champs-Elysees, circa 1918, $13,750 and Ballets Russes de Monte-Carlo, 1924, $12,500; and Niklaus Stoecklin’s appealing image of eggs frying in a pan, E Guete!, 1961, $9,375.

Among the Soviet propaganda images were Alexander Rodchenko’s [Dobrolet], the Russian Society of Volunteer Airfleet, 1923, $30,000; Valentina Kulagina’s [To the 3rd Year of the 5 Year Plan], circa 1932, $16,250; and several by Gustav Klutsis, such as [Building Socialism Under the Banner of Lenin], 1930, $15,000 and  [Long Live the Multimillion-Member Lennist Komsomol], 1932, $10,625.

Also featured were Tadanori Yokoo’s [The City and Design, The Wonders of Life on Earth], 1966, $20,000; H.A. Volodimer’s [2eme Grand Prix d’Endurance / Coupe Rudge Whitworth], mixed-media maquette, 1923, $11,875 and Alexey Brodovitch’s Bal Banal, 1924, $11,520.

For complete results, an illustrated auction catalogue (with prices realized on request) is available for $35 from Swann Galleries, Inc., 104 East 25th Street, New York, NY 10010, or online at

For further information, and to consign items to upcoming poster auctions, please contact Nicholas D. Lowry at (212) 254-4710, extension 53, or via e-mail at [email protected].

*All prices include buyer’s premium.

First image: Bertold Löffler, Kunstschau Wien, 1908. Sold for a record $52,500 (including buyer's premium).

Second image: Andy Warhol’s / My Hustler, by an unknown designer, 1966. Sold for a record $31,250 (including buyer's premium).