Poster shopping wise, if not price wise

Christies bi-annual poster sale is once again hoving into view at the end of the month, and this time around there are some very expensive posters that they’d like you to buy.

The stakes are sufficiently high for this not to be the most expensive British poster.

KEEP CALM AND CARRY ON lithograph in colours, 1939, published by the Ministry of Information
Anonymous, 1939, Est. £6,000-8,000

That honour instead falls to these two.

Edward McKnight Kauffer (1890-1954) POWER, THE NERVE CENTRE OF LONDON'S UNDERGROUND lithograph in colours, 1930
McKnight Kauffer, 1930, est. £30,000-40,000

Man Ray (1890-1976) KEEPS LONDON GOING photolithograph, 1939
Man Ray, 1939, est. £40,000-60,000

While on one level I really don’t mind which posters people are prepared to pay preposterous amounts of money for, on the other hand it does slightly bother me.  Because these posters I am sure accrue at least some of their value because they are both part of the Grand Narrative of Modernism. (Really, otherwise why is a McKnight Kauffer of a giant Futurist Fist worth more than one of his works depicting trees or fields?)  But as I’ve said often enough on here before, trying to see British design exclusively through the lens of modernism is like looking at the landscape through a small keyhole.  There’s an awful lot more out there than ever gets seen or noticed, just because it doesn’t fit the story of what the heroic modernists were doing elsewhere in Europe.  Was being modernist such a great thing – and did the British therefore just fail?  Or should we be writing another story altogether, about what actually happened here?  As you may guess, my views tend towards the latter opinion.  But the prices being asked here tell me that I am in a minority.

Interestingly, the estimate on that Man Ray renders it more expensive than a Toulouse Lautrec.

Henri De Toulouse-Lautrec (1864-1901) JANE AVRIL lithograph in colours, 1893
Toulouse-Lautrec, 1893, est. £20,00-30,000

Although not every Toulouse-Lautrec mind you.

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (1864-1901) MOULIN ROUGE - LA GOULUE lithograph in colours, 1891
Toulouse-Lautrec, 1891, est. £120,000-180,000

Which must mean something too, even if I am not entirely sure what that something might be.

Elsewhere, I am pleased to see two Eckersleys up for sale.

Tom Eckersley (1914-1997) GILLETTE, ALL OVER THE WORLD lithograph in colours, c.1948
Tom Eckersley, 1948, est. £800-1,200

Tom Eckersley (1914-1997) & Eric Lombers (1914-1978) SCIENTISTS PREFER SHELL  lithograph in colours, 1938
Eckersley-Lombers, 1938, est. £1,000-1,500

Not just because they are Eckersleys, but also because we own the Shell and a slightly different version of the Gillette (one which, if you ask me, is nicer) so it’s good to feel that I am not entirely out on a limb here.

These two other Shell posters, meanwhile, are just good.

Clifford (1907-1985) & Rosemary (1910-1998) Ellis ANTIQUARIES PREFER SHELL lithograph in colours, 1934
Clifford and Rosemary Ellis, 1934, et. 800-1,200

Ben Nicholson (1894-1982) THESE MEN USE SHELL lithograph in colours, 1938
Ben Nicholson, 1938, est. 1,000-1,500

As is this Games (there are others in the auction, it’s  just that this one is my favourite).

Abram Games (1914-1996) THE FINANCIAL TIMES lithograph in colours, c.1951
Abram Games,  c.1951, est. 800-1,200

While this Austin Cooper is just a bit odd, if not disturbing.

Austin Cooper (1890-1964) SOUVENIRS, IMPERIAL WAR MUSEUM lithograph in colours, 1932
Austin Cooper, 1932, est. £800-1,200

Are they suggesting we take guns home with us?  And shells?  To create our own ruins?

At the other end of the scary vs cuddly spectrum entirely, this is nothing less than delightful.

René Gruau (Renato de Zavagli, 1909-2004) SHOPPING WISE
René Gruau, est. £1,000-1,500

And it comes with two other DH Evans posters as well, so is as close to a bargain as Christies are ever going to deign to provide.

Elsewhere you can also find some David Kleins , lots of airline posters and with all of the other cruise posters, this Richard Beck, which is always a pleasure to see.

Richard Beck, 1937, est. £800-1,200

And of course it is proof that we did do modernism sometimes.  Despite everything I say.

But that’s about as far as my interest can stretch, although it is worth noting – in a follow the money kind of way – a large tranche of Russian posters, some of which are rather admirable, albeit out of the remit of this blog.  Should you be curious, this poster is called Party Administration.  It never looked so interesting.

Sergei Sen'kin (1894-1963) PARTY ADMINISTRATION photography and lithography, 1927
Sergei Sen’kin, 1927, est. £5,000-7,000

Over in America, meanwhile, a fascinating little set of posters is coming up for auction tomorrow, online.


They are all for Cooks the travel agent, date from the middle of the 1950s, and are in turn by Derrick Hass, Pobjoy and Karo.  And no, I’ve never heard of Pobjoy either before now.

Cooks poster 1950s travel Derrick Hass

But they are fascinating because they are just the kind of posters that don’t usually survive – I’ve never seen any of  them before.

Cooks travel agent poster KAro

Furthermore, they may not go for that much money over there as they are being sold without reserve- although the shipping costs will preclude a total bargain.  But move fast because the auction ends on Sunday night.

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