For as long as cinema has existed, posters have been central media in the communication of film: they bring cinema to the streets and arouse emotions on a grand scale. The exhibition “Great Cinema. Film Posters of All Times” presents 300 original film posters from the 1900s to the 2020s from the graphic design collection of the Berlin Art Library. Contemporary guests from the film and cinema industry are involved in a curatorial capacity.
Fig. above: Boris Bilinsky, Metropolis, 1927, © Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Kunstbibliothek / Dietmar Katz
Graphical short formula
A film needs a poster – even in digital times it is the most important medium of visual communication. A good film poster is advertising and art at the same time: it condenses the plot of the film into a single concise image, captures the atmosphere and introduces the protagonists. It arouses curiosity without revealing too much. In short, film is translated into graphics, including all the emotions of “big cinema”. Film posters make you marvel, smile or frown, they stir up tension, memories, excitement or admiration.
…of all time
Around 1900, shortly after the invention of the cinematograph, the first film posters were used in urban spaces. The exhibition traces a history of the film poster from 1905 to the present day: from narrative and expressionist lithographs in silent cinema to the world-famous modern graphics for New Film Art and Atlas in the 1960s to current design between paper and pixel. Besides German posters, France, the USA, Poland and other countries are represented. The spectrum spans twelve decades – in the truest sense of the word: film posters of all times!
Professionals and celebrities
What makes a good film poster is very much in the eye of the beholder. It has to do with taste, and with personal experience. The exhibition is therefore curated collaboratively: 26 people from the film and cinema industry helped to select the exhibits from the approximately 5,000 film posters in the graphic design collection. Guests from the fields of acting, directing, cinema business, film studies, art and graphic design, nominated together with the Berlinale management, were each invited to choose a favourite poster. They will explain their selection to visitors in an audio guide. Participants are: Anna Berkenbusch, Christian Bräuer, Carlo Chatrian, Adrian Curry, Thea Ehre, Maryna Er Gorbach, Liv Lisa Fries, Maria Fuchs, Douglas Gordon, Graf Haufen, Ella Lee, Natalie MacMahon, Vasilis Marmatakis, Lemohang Mosese, Maximilian Mundt, Elfi Mikesch, Helke Misselwitz, Ulrike Ottinger, Asli Özge, Kida Khodr Ramadan, Mariette Rissenbeek, Pierre Sanoussi-Bliss, Albrecht Schuch, Simon Spiegel, Verena von Stackelberg and Jasmin Tabatabai.
Arthouse to Blockbuster
The selection of 26 guests includes classics such as “The Golem” and cult films like “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” or “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas” as well as works by Isolde Baumgart, Helmut Brade, Dorothea Fischer-Nosbisch, Hans Hillmann and other outstanding poster designers. The chronology of film posters includes blockbusters such as “Jaws”, “Star Wars” or “Lord of the Rings” as well as posters for arthouse and independent films from Neorealismo to New Hollywood to Pedro Almodovar. The superstar among the exhibits is “Metropolis”, a large format (2.20 x 3 m) designed by Boris Bilinsky in 1927, of which probably only this one copy is preserved in a museum. The tour ends with fan art, hand-painted large posters by Götz Valien and a look at today’s collecting strategies.
Opening credits cinema and children’s stations
The moving image is not missing from the exhibition either: an integrated “opening credits cinema” shows film intros and title sequences that enter into a creative dialogue with posters. For children, it’s “Follow Paula Popcorn!”: The mascot leads the way through the Family Trail with interactive stations for listening, touching, playing and drawing.
Cooperation with the Berlin International Film Festival
The Art Library – as a museum with a traditional and extensive collection of graphic design – already organised exhibitions of film posters in its rooms at the Kulturforum in 1959 (on the occasion of the IX International Film Festival) and 1975 (for the 25th Film Festival). This connection will be resumed with “Großes Kino”, which will run in 2024 parallel to the 74th Film Festival at the neighbouring Potsdamer Platz.
Events and catalogue
“Großes Kino” will be accompanied by a diverse programme of events and education, supported by Berliner Sparkasse, consisting of guided tours, workshops, expert talks, excursions, silent film evenings and more. A symposium on 23 and 24 February 2024 will examine the film poster from a contemporary, especially critical perspective. A richly illustrated publication will be published by Sandstein Verlag to accompany the exhibition (approx. 230 pages, German/English).
“Great Cinema. Film Posters of All Times” is curated by Christina Thomson, Head of the Graphic Design Collection, and Christina Dembny, Research Project Associate.
Kulturforum, exhibition hall
Tue, Wed, Fri, Sat, Sun, 10am-6pm
Thu, 10-20 h