Friday - 12 February 2016

Tastes shift to post-war cult classics

13 September 2001Written by ATG Reporter

After a quiet August Christie’s South Kensington (17.5/10% buyer’s premium) sprang into action in September with two sales packed into the afternoon of Monday the 4th: 321 lots of street fashion, accessories and other items of costume and 388 lots of vintage film posters.

The core of the street fashion sale was an archive of costume by the celebrated British fashion designer Vivienne Westwood and these dominated the top price list.

The film poster sale majored on post-war films with particularly strong selections of 1960s and ’70s titles including small sections devoted to cult collecting areas such as James Bond, Clint Eastwood and 2001: a Space Odyssey. Not many years ago these would barely have featured in a movie poster auction. It is a sign of how tastes have shifted that they now feature so prominently and, moreover, that the smaller selection of early pre-war vintage material proved to be the weaker section of the sale, according to Christie’s specialist Sarah Hodgson.

It was Stanley Kubrick’s 1968 sci-fi classic that provided the highest poster price of the day. The US one-sheet, measuring 3ft 5in x 2ft 3in (1.04m x 68cm) for 2001 features a close- up on the pupil of an eye reflecting an embryonic head and is subtitled The Ultimate Trip. This particular form was produced to be posted on walls in New York City and consequently few have survived, a factor which helped propel it to £6000, comfortably over the £3000-5000 estimate. More typically, though, the majority of lots here went in line with expectations. Prices for the ten other 2001 posters, for example, ranged from £320 for two British quads with art work by Robert McCall, up to £1900 for ten specialist photographic display posters printed in Italy for use in the US each measuring 2ft 41/2 x 3ft 31/4in (70cm x 1m).

Breakfast at Tiffany’s proved a popular choice with three posters for the Blake Edward’s 1961 cult classic featuring amongst the ten top prices. A US one-sheet and a rarer survival, a 3ft 4in x 2ft 6in (101 x 76cm) poster of heavy stock paper produced for display outside drive-ins, each came in at £3800, selling to British buyers while a large, 7ft 9in (2.06m) square, US six-sheet realised £2700 to a European bidder. The buying was pretty international overall with a busy attendance and considerable telephone back up that between them carried off 78 per cent of the lots for a total that came around the low end of projections at £186,780.

The sale opened with a 22- lot section devoted to film posters by Saul Bass, the well known New York graphic designer, advertising guru, photographer, actor and writer, who worked with Hitchcock and Preminger and whose many claims to fame included the design of the shower scene in Psycho.

In terms of poster design Bass’s minimalist blocky, graphic style, memorably employed on such films as The Man with the Golden Arm, Anatomy of a Murder and Vertigo, represented a distinctive departure which retains its visual power today. The majority of the 22 lots in this sale had come from a US collector many of them having formerly been in Bass’s own collection and bearing his stamp. All but one sold, mostly within estimate for a total of over £10,000 led at £1800 by a US one-sheet for the 1958 Hitchcock classic Vertigo.

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