The late 1960s is widely recognised as the golden age for rock posters. Critics, museum curators, and gallery owners have regularly compared the psychedelic posters advertising legendary gigs by the likes of Jimi Hendrix, The Grateful Dead and The Doors created by Wes Wilson, Alton Kelley, Rick Griffin, and Victor Moscoso, to the Belle Époque period posters of Toulouse-Lautrec. Investment-grade collections have been built around them with prices fetching up to $10,000 or more at auction. In the 1980s the art of the rock poster pretty much died out as the advent of CD saw the music business find a new form of revenue and irregular stadium gigs became the norm for established and big name artists rather than tours taking in iconic city theatres.
However, with the music industry’s move away in recent years from recorded music towards constant touring as a revenue earner the art of the rock poster has resurfaced and a whole new raft of designers – often working in conjunction with left-field, artistically forward-thinking bands – have ushered in a new wave of poster art. Once again, it’s a predominantly US-driven scene but this time often owes more than a nod to Swiss typographic design than that of its psychedelic ancestory.
Many of the posters are highly sought after with limited editions selling out within days or weeks of going on sale (often faster than the gigs they depict) At the moment they sell for anywhere between $150 and $400. Among the leading proponents are A. Micah Smith, a graphic designer and illustrator living in Nashville and Andrew Vastagh, aka Boss Construction who designs and screen-prints all his posters by hand, personally leaning on Russian and Polish WWII propaganda posters for inspiration.
Dan Grzeca, meanwhile, is a painter and print maker from Chicago who began screen-printing in the 1990s. Grzeca’s background in fine art and painting helps him achieve a depth in texture and colour in his posters and prints.
Our personal favourite at phaidon.com though, is the work of Jason Munn. It's appeared in Creative Review, Communication Arts, Step Inside Design and is already part of the permanent collection of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. A trawl around the net will turn up many of the posters for sale from private buyers. But you can start here for a good route in.
The Phaidon Archive of Graphic Design is a revolutionary and evolutionary creative tool.
Stay ahead and keep your archive alive with future updates.
Sign up now:
Sign up to receive Phaidon stories via email