In recognition of the one-hundred-and-fifty-year old existence of the Rotterdam Municipal Archives, the Kunsthal organizes the exhibition “Well now, ain’t that a pretty poster?” From a collection of somewhat fifty-thousand specimens a selection of over one hundred posters has been made. Together these posters provide us with a diverse image of the past one-hundred-and-fifty years of the city of Rotterdam – the oldest poster dating back as far as 1876, proclaiming that Rotte’s Men’s Choir was to perform a concert for the people, the youngest poster inviting the public on behalf of RVS (Rotterdam Insurance Association) to visit the zoo free of charge.
A subdivision of the posters into seven themes shows us what was and is happening in Rotterdam in the fields of shipping trade, public events, music, sports, insurances, protest and trading of various products, such as coffee, tea and tobacco. Moreover, these posters give a clear impression of the development of Dutch poster design – for example, the personal style of Jac. Jongert, Head of the Advertizing Department at Van Nelle, developed from decorative Art Nouveau-inspired posters into more and more geometrical designs.
The Holland-Amerika Lijn (a shipping line between the Netherlands and the United States, home based at the Rotterdam harbor), soccer club Sparta, the Van Nelle Company, boxer Bep van Klaveren, insurances of Eerste Rotterdamsche, the protest against the war in Iraq, Metropolis, the Summer Carnival and the exhibition ‘Rotterdam Ahoy’ – they are all highlighted, as are important designers such as Bart van der Leck, W.H.Gispen, A.M. Cassandre, Mevis and Van Deursen and Hard Werken. The exhibition shows that a lot has changed over the past century: nowadays insurance companies capitalize upon people’s emotions using atmospheric campaigns whereas the oldest posters used severe warnings and made an appeal to common sense.