Charting the complete graphic design history of the gallery, this exhibition is a photographic trompe l’oeil of 500 rare and original posters from the Modern Art Oxford archive.
These have been collected as a record of the hundreds of experimental and influential exhibitions that have taken place at Pembroke Street and earlier at the Bear Lane Gallery.
When viewed together the posters show a number of changes in exhibition making over the last 50 years. Foregrounding the artist in the design and production of early 60s and 70s posters meant they often have a low-fi, almost handmade, quality. In the 80s, corporate branding enters the room with the introduction of obvious framing devices and the advent of the museum logo. The artist as a brand in their own right becomes apparent in the 90s with the pre-eminence of the YBAs.
More recently in the noughties what becomes visible is the gradual streamlining of institutional identity. This is partly in response to increasing competition between museums and galleries in the private and public sectors as well as the onset of the digital age and advances in production methods and social media.
The exhibition offers a review of the social and political function of both contemporary art and the art gallery in society through its design and identity in print, and the shifting agendas of institutions like Modern Art Oxford in relation to culture, artists and audiences.
Each poster tells a variety of stories for different people. Some viewers associate with the first show they came to see at Modern Art Oxford. Others relate to significant moments in UK politics and social history, while others identify with iconic artists whose work has influenced thinking.