Poster House Museum Celebrates the Historic, Influential Medium

A first-of-its-kind institution in NYC dedicated to this artistic means of mass communication

No one can deny the power of a poster. From political propaganda to tour announcements, this medium of mass communication (and persuasion) pervades contemporary society. Now, its impactful and illustrious history has a dedicated museum in NYC‘s art-oriented Chelsea neighborhood. Poster House exclusively exhibits influential works, artists and movements from the poster world. It occupies the former Tekserve storefront on 23rd Street, which has been reimagined by LTL Architects to remind guests that posters are, in fact, supposed to be outside. With an all-day cafe, interactive spaces, programming for children and an overall accessible presentation, Poster House joins the roster of must-visit art destinations in NYC.

The 15,000-square-foot museum’s two main galleries aim to tackle contrasting representation. With their larger debut exhibit, Alphonse Mucha: Art Nouveau / Nouvelle Femme, the museum and its curatorial staff draw attention to the artist who popularized Art Nouveau in Belle Époque
Paris. Many recognize Alphonse Mucha’s style without knowing his name. A graphic artist, advertising genius, and design pioneer, Mucha contributed so many works to the cultural cannon. At Poster House, they’re displayed along with other works they inspired.

In contrast to the romanticism of Mucha, Designing Through the Wall: Cyan in the 1990s offers an insightful look at an East Berlin-based graphic design firm that produced work just after the fall of the Berlin wall. From ’89 onward, they utilized everything from early desktop publishing tools like QuarkXPress to Bauhaus influences. It’s the first time their early posters are shown in NYC.

Poster House features several interactive spaces, designed for all ages. Upon entry, a photo-booth will quickly snag visitors. But downstairs, three interactive walls will occupy guests far longer. One wall, referred to as the Layer Station, breaks a poster into the colors of its print stages. Another full wall of whiteboards features a ’60s NYC street scene to be colored in by attendees. Rounding out the room, a newsstand and payphone offer activity cards and sound games. There’s even a design-your-own poster digital experience.

When passing from one end of Poster House to the other, as it’s a through-block storefront on the street level, it’s impossible to ignore the rhythmic interior walls—and the construction material of choice. LTL Architects employed an eco-conscious clay-based plaster, used for the first time in the US. It lends an almost 200-foot-long wall a velvety quality. It’s softly concrete-like in nature and harks back to the fact that when posters aren’t hung on our bedroom walls, they’re out there on the streets.

Poster House is located at 119 W 23rd Street and is open 11AM to 6PM, Wednesday through Monday.

Exhibition images courtesy of Poster House, photographed by Stephanie Powell; Interactive corner image courtesy of Poster House, photographed by Samuel Morgan Photography