Most pieces in the Collection come from the second half of the 20th century and they encompass posters intended for gallery and museum programmes in Croatia and former Yugoslavia. The Collection is primarily documentary and focused on the exhibition poster, gathered through exchanges and donations between similar institutions, and only partly through acquisitions.
Highly modernist solutions begin to appear in the 1950s, posters of purified aesthetics, designed in the wake of geometric abstraction and constructivism. In the 1970s, in the context of broader accessibility of technical and printing possibilities, they were overpowered by ‘commentator’ posters rife with references to popular culture and everyday life which combined cultural codes to spur connections between content and form.
The key part belongs to the posters published by the Museum, i.e. the former Fine Art Gallery, later the Modern Gallery. Since the establishment of the institution in 1948, they have portrayed the chronology of activities, like anthological exhibition that took place biennially or triennially throughout a longer time period, Salons, Biennales of Young Artists or the International Exhibition of Drawings. Visual advertising enables us to monitor the changes of the institution’s programmatic orientation, but also changes in cultural climate, trends and aesthetics. The authors of these posters were already acknowledged visual artists and cultural personalities, who pursued graphic design in addition to their artistic work. Alongside the growing professionalization of graphic design, in the last two decades poster design has been more and more trusted to designers. In addition to exhibition posters, the Collection also sporadically includes theatre posters, tourism posters, political and sports posters. At the same time, it refers to particular segments, for instance, in the case of the theatre poster it covers the local scene and works by artists and designers based in Rijeka in the 1990s. In the same period, the tourism poster features standardised, representative solutions based on landscape photography. Examples of the political poster mainly refer to the 1950s and 1960s, socialist society propaganda, the workers’ movement and engaged cultural policy, but also they include posters from the early 1990s advocating the end of war atrocities in Croatia. The sports poster are represented in two segments, a series of posters for the 1972 Olympics in Munich and the 1984 Olympics in Sarajevo.
Albeit present in a more modest share, a special place nevertheless belongs to posters created for music events and clubbing, which reflect Rijeka’s new wave atmosphere and youth (sub)culture of the 1980s. In addition to so-called institutionalised margins, i.e. published by student organisations in charge of youth culture, most posters were simple in terms of layout, ‘homemade’, printed in small print runs and related to Rijeka’s new wave bands.
We present the posters from the Collection at occasional exhibitions and in a mobile display on the Museum stairwell. Early in 2013 visitors were ‘greeted’ by posters related to the establishment of Yugoslav self-governing socialism, together with the posters from the era of the so-called decadent socialism, disobedient nerve of the new wave that ‘sung’ a completely different notion of the relationship between an individual and a collective. The current stairwell display refers to the cabinet of curiosities, which preceded the museum as place of unusual combinations and interpretations of reality. The choice of posters from the 1960s onwards relates to the notion of unusual, ludic and bizarre, partly as a game of hide-and-seek, partly as time travel through collective imaginary.
Ksenija Orelj, curator