A movie poster is fundamentally a piece of advertising memorabilia which may occasionally rise to the status of design object, meriting examination apart from its original, billboard-ian role. The premise of the Museum of Modern Art’s current exhibition Scorsese Collects is twofold: to present 34 posters from the director’s personal collection and to act as a visual companion to the upcoming film program Scorsese Screens. These fraternal-twin exhibitions beg the questions: Is Martin Scorsese an interesting curator? Does he have taste that is unexpected, unusual, or not obviously reflected in his films? The lineup of Scorsese Screens is classically great and therefore mildly disappointing. The selection contains a few too many obvious choices: On the Waterfront, The Red Shoes, Laura, The Earrings of Madame de… , Scarface, 2001: A Space Odyssey, The Searchers, among others. Scorsese Collects (which includes posters from almost all of the films screened, though not completely nor exclusively) features a promisingly disparate array of designs from the US, Europe, and South America.
Old film posters are a point of easy interest; memorabilia is a staple of fandom. Simply because of its roster of beloved films, Scorsese Collects is immediately appealing to film lovers. However, the exhibition has more to offer graphically than just allusions. In a 1954 Italian poster for On the Waterfront featuring a bloody hook, Marlon Brando evokes Freddie Kruger. A French poster from 1932 for The Lost Squadron borrows the sharp geometric figures and the glamorous, technicolor imagery of movement of Futurism. A 1968 American poster for 2001: A Space Odyssey shows a close-up of an eyeball with a fetus-shaped image in the iris; the poster’s tag line reads, “the ultimate trip.” The images in Scorsese Collects demonstrate what is perhaps a truism about commercial design: it synthesizes the essence of a product’s theme, then exaggerates and embellishes it to make a seductive promise to potential consumers.
What the exhibition does not present is any information about the posters’ designers, leaving the selection of works to appear completely dictated by Scorsese’s past purchasing whims. In fact, the show features an impressive roster of international cinema poster designers and illustrators. Italian designer Luigi Martinati’s renditions of John Wayne exhibit a glamorous masculinity that’s equaled in his sensuous depictions of Wayne’s contemporaries, including Lauren Bacall, Ingrid Bergman, and Joan Crawford. The 1948 poster for It Always Rains on Sunday by British painter and illustrator James Boswell stands out for its doe-eyed, Giacometti-figured women. Scorsese Collects spans over three floors, and although exhibition space is limited on each level, more wall text about the posters’ designers would offer immeasurably more depth.
The MoMA film program walks a productive line between the esoteric and the popular — a balance that I imagine attracts a necessarily diverse audience. However, Scorsese Collects need not have stayed so committed to being accessible; a little more wall text would not have deterred Scorsese fans from coming to check out his poster collection, and they might have learned something in the process.
Scorsese Collects continues at the Museum of Modern Art (11 W 53rd Street, Midtown, Manhattan) through October 25.
Once denounced as “women’s work” with no artistic merit, embroidery is experiencing a revival, with a feminist punch.
Inspired by the journey made by the epic hero Homer’s Odyssey, a show at Villa Carmignac combines myth with contemporary issues.
This new kunsthaus in Potsdam shows modern and contemporary works of art from East Germany in what was once a terrace restaurant.
Courtney Stephens’s documentary on women’s travels from the 1920s to ’50s presents not just personal glimpses into daily life a century ago but also documents of colonialism.
Laura Larson’s City of Incurable Women draws from archival materials to speculate on the lives of women who were famously hospitalized for hysteria throughout history.
The Philadelphia organization offers artists on-site access to recovered materials, studio space, construction equipment, a $1,000 stipend, and more.
The company is asking users to verify their bank details via Plaid, a fintech company that recently settled a privacy class action lawsuit.
Each artist will receive $190,000 in cash and benefits from the Tulsa Artist Fellowship over a three-year period.
Drawn to Life at the Ackland in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, showcases 17th-century Dutch drawings of landscapes, portraits, preparatory studies, and biblical and historical scenes.
The 1,000-year-old Cañada de la Virgen ceremonial site will be protected from encroaching development.
A total of 24 board members stepped down from their posts after the art center’s parent company allegedly attempted to terminate 12 of their colleagues.
A group of artists and writers denounced the center for hosting Philippines President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., son of the country’s former dictator.