When John Rogers opened Gallery 29 in 2004, the concept of an original vintage poster gallery was new. Posters, in most Irish minds, were the kind of disposable art that students used to hide the damp stain on the wall. Who in their right mind would pay €4,000 for a poster?
But Rogers was on a mission. He wanted to convince the public that posters were a viable and collectible art form. The basement gallery was spacious and cleverly lit, and by placing it on Molesworth Street he placed it in the heart of Dublin’s arts district. The moment you stepped through the door, you got the message. Posters were real art.
When I met Rogers in 2005, he explained the difference between modern digital reproductions and the vintage originals in his gallery: “The paper used in the first half of the 20th century was different, modern paper often looks shiny in comparison. The inks have also changed. The colors of the 1920s were more natural. It is difficult to match them with modern chemical inks. When you see an original and a reproduction side by side, you can see the difference in quality. It’s pretty obvious, even to the untrained eye.” Rogers sold his posters unframed, but most were linen-backed, a restoration process that makes the fragile paper more resilient.
The John Rogers Vintage Poster Collection is being auctioned at Adam’s. The sale will take place online, starting on Monday and ending at 12pm on July 27th. Expect more than 400 original vintage posters from the years 1910 to 1990 with estimates ranging from 50 to 1,500 euros. The viewing is on July 21st and 22nd.
Rogers, who died earlier this year, collected posters to such an extent that it’s hard to imagine Gallery 29 ever making any money. In the catalog essay, Julian Lloyd recalls Joe Christie’s eulogy at Rogers’ funeral: “He had a kind of odd salesmanship. I remember going in and selecting a poster to buy. John’s mouth dropped, his eyebrows shot up. “No, no, this is not for sale. I like this myself, choose another for you.’”
Most pre-WWII posters are lithographs printed on stone slabs from an original painting, mostly in gouache. By today’s standards, it was a painstaking process with a standard print run of 1,000 to 1,500 posters.
They were a delicate and ephemeral art form that was never designed to last forever. Poster collecting began as early as 1896, with early collectors showing such enthusiasm that printers quickly began selling posters directly to the public to discourage them from stealing them off the streets. Without these early poster collectors, few originals would have survived. The sale includes works by major artists and poster designers.
A 1913 advertisement for Relsky Vodka (lot 727: estimate €800-1,000) is by Leonetto Cappiello, often referred to as the “father of modern advertising” for his innovative use of black backgrounds. The poster is a (borderline racist) caricature of a mischievous Russian, whose swirling red beard and fur hat contrast dramatically with Cappiello’s signature black.
There is often a lot of humor in the designs. Andre Ledun – Filets de Morue Extra by Leon Dupin (Lot 364: Estimate €300-400) features a French housewife triumphantly cuddling a giant can of cod. Others are early travel posters, often sponsored by railway companies. Before the French railways were nationalized in 1937, French artist and poster designer Leon Constant Duval created posters for the various French railway companies.
In this auction his Amboise Les Chateaux de la Loire (lot 161: estimate €800 to €1,000) shows the royal chateau under the name of the Chemin de fer d’Orléans railway company. The clear message is: this is the way to go and this is how you get there. Irish posters had smaller runs and are even rarer. Among these, a 1930s poster by Julius Olsson of Dunluce Castle is the best choice (Lot 27: estimate €1,200-1,600). Olsson (1864-1942) was a British maritime artist with an intense sensitivity to the sea, which is evident in his artwork. He married the daughter of an Irish horse breeder and died in Dalkey.
In the sales rooms
A Victor Mee-led sale of decorative interiors, architecture and pub memorabilia will be held in Belturbet, Co. Cavan on Tuesday and Wednesday (19th and 20th July). It contains some extraordinary items.
One of these is an entire room, hand painted, gilded and plaster paneled, originally from a chateau near Versailles, France, complete with etched glass doors and an original fireplace, and was used as a set piece for an upcoming Hollywood fairytale film, filmed in Enniskerry, Co. Wicklow. Rumor has it that the Disney team was disappointed with the scenes filmed in Ireland, so it’s not clear if the room (Lot 627: estimated €25,000-35,000) will make it to the final cut.
Another unusual architectural object – a carved neo-Gothic oak pulpit from the 19th century (lot 405) bears no estimate. It is difficult to quote a price for a piece more than 8m high and intricately carved with a “slender cantilevered peaked roof surrounded by six angelic figures standing on pillars and back wall supports”. It was carved for a Catholic church in France in the 1870s by Charles Bouisine Rigot (1820-1893), a French cabinetmaker and wood sculptor famous for his religious decorations on buildings. In recognition of his work, he was made a Knight of the Order of Saint Gregory the Great.
The pulpit is great, but since it was created for a context that no longer exists, it needs to be reimagined for a 21st-century role. The sale also includes chairs and sofas, tables, cabinets and lockers, vases and urns, mirrors, statues, lighting fixtures and lamps. Viewings for this off-site auction will take place on Saturday and Sunday at Tallbridge Road, Cranagill, Co Armagh, BT61 8PN. See victormeauctions.ie.
An ‘Enignum II’ chair, designed and manufactured by Joseph Walsh Studio in Co Cork, was sold at Sotheby’s New York on June 9th for $12,600 (€12,370).
The design, in olive ash with suede upholstery, holds a fairly consistent value. In March 2019, an “Enignum II” chair was sold at de Vere for 8,500 euros. However, Walsh’s monumental tables are harder to sell. In 2018, a one-off Enignum X dining table was sold at Sotheby’s in London for £316,000 (ca New York on June 9 remained unsold.
https://www.independent.ie/life/home-garden/interiors/treasures-4000-for-a-poster-the-man-behind-gallery-29-thought-they-were-worth-even-more-41840056.html Guess: 4,000 euros for a poster? The man behind gallery 29 thought they were worth even more