As pandemic restrictions eased in May 2021, vintage poster dealers Harriet Williams and Sylwia Newman of Projekt 26 found themselves standing in 4500 sq ft of white-walled gallery space in Peckham, south London.
The British-Polish duo had responded to an advertisement for pop-ups by the Copeland Gallery with the idea of holding a small show of examples from their specialist field: the Polish School of Posters, a flourishing artistic period of design in Poland during the 1950s-60s.
“It was a spur of the moment thing.”
“As it turned out, the advertisement was for the entire venue. We thought we can’t not put posters in this space and so decided then and there to contact every vintage poster dealer we knew who were independent and did not have a shop,” says Williams.
The response was overwhelmingly positive, and the Projekt Mkt Vintage Poster Market was born. Thought to be the first specialist vintage poster market in the UK, it was held across three days in May with seven dealers taking part.
“We had no idea how it was going to go, and we had never organised anything like it before, but it surpassed all our expectations,” says Williams. “Across the three days we had 2000 visitors.”
The success of the inaugural staging has ensured a second run which takes place across three days from November 12-14. It will include an expanded group of 10 independent vintage poster dealers bringing thousands of original 20th century designs across the themes of travel, film, propaganda, art exhibitions and more.
“The majority of posters date from the 50s, 60s and 70s but there are a few younger and older ones too,” says Williams.
With the Copeland Gallery unavailable for this edition, it takes place at MKII, a quirky industrial old dairy building in Clapton, east London.
All posters for sale are authentic originals with prices ranging from £20 to over £4000 for rare and iconic designs. Entry is £3 with under 16s free.
“Every single dealer is super passionate about what they do and have a genuine love for vintage posters,” says Williams.
“The event brings together quite an eclectic bunch of people, and everyone has their different specialisms.”
Among the newcomers are Tomkinson Churcher, run by former Christie’s directors Nicolette Tomkinson and Sophie Churcher and concentrating on travel, advertising and exhibition posters. The pair’s second-ever fair following their first outing at The Decorative Antiques & Textiles Fair in Battersea in September, they are bring with them a selection of rare original David Hockney exhibition posters.
For Churcher it is “the combination of manual production processes, bold visual appeal and cultural and art historical significance achieved through the use of forward-thinking graphic techniques” that contribute to the appeal of the vintage posters they source for sale.
The other debutants are Kiki Werth, bringing British posters including designs for the railway, Underground and Empire Marketing Board, and film poster dealers Nick Reed Film Posters and Orson & Welles.
They are joined by returnees Chaleureuse, specialist in vintage French graphics; Jerome Monahan, a mid-century poster collector with a passion for Soviet-era posters; Nick Reed with psychedelic poster art from the 1960s-70s; Travel on Paper with mid-century airline, railway, coach, Olympic and sailing posters; Cool Walls, run by Bafta award-winning TV director Adam Kaleta and Christian Stevenson, offering an accessible range of vintage posters for film and music posters; and of course the bold and striking mid-century Polish School posters from Projekt 26.
Though their business is young, Williams and Newman say they have noticed growing demand for vintage posters.
“Definitely people have become much more aware of their walls when they started looking at them day in, day out [during the pandemic],” says Williams.
“I also think people are engaging more and more with vintage items generally because of the sustainability aspect to them. There is massive pressure on the environment and people are appreciating the beautiful stuff that exists already.”