Posters Versus Prints

What is the difference between posters and original prints? A poster is after all a print. Herein lies the complication. At the end of the nineteenth century, there was a proliferation of posters, which were pasted onto walls and hoardings as advertisements. The poster started to blend fine art with commercial art in an entirely new way. Designed to carry a message attractively and persuasively to even the most casual viewer they were a means of communication rather than the expression of an artists feeling or concept. These images usually contained both written and visual information and when successful, conveyed the intended message clearly. Artists at this time began to exercise considerable creativity to convince the public to buy goods whether they were cigarettes or tickets to a cabaret. This led to people removing the poster to place in their home and then to people being prepared to buy the poster as a work of art in itself. Good examples of this are the posters made by Toulouse-Lautrec and Pierre Bonnard. These prints were often produced by stone lithography and thus further complicate the advert versus genuine print debate.

Today the separation between poster and print is easier to make. The poster is still used mainly for advertising and is often well designed. Graphic artists are usually involved in making them and fine artists are seldom used anymore. They can still be collector's items, such as the poster for the original Star Wars movie, but they are not in themselves considered valuable artworks. They usually printed on glossy paper and do not use light fast inks which means that the colour will fade over time, especially of the mounted or framed work is hung in a sunny position. They are printed using the most up to date printing technology and their production is dominated by the commercial world. They are usually printed in huge runs and cannot be considered limited editions. Sometimes artists will print a poster to advertise their exhibition. Sometimes these are signed and even numbered, but these are considered souvenirs rather than original prints. The same applies to posters that one can purchase at art museums and gallery gift stores.

Some artists such as JR have reappropriated images made by using cheap commercial processes. He works globally providing blown up portrait photographs of people which are then pasted to walls, floors, pavements etc in a very effective conceptual way. Take a look: JR's website

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