It's impossible to walk past the display windows of vintage poster specialists Galerie Un-Deux-Trois in Geneva's suburb of Eaux-Vives without stopping to stare.
Galerie Un-Deux-Trois is the only gallery in Switzerland and - after 37 years in business - the oldest gallery in Europe to deal in the collection, restoration and sale of vintage poster art.
Their inventory includes rare 20th century pieces by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec and Edvard Mucha, proving that gallery owner and vintage poster specialist Jean-Daniel Clerc not only has exquisite taste, but excellent timing, too!
Case in point: To mark the opening of the 84th Geneva Motor Show running from March 6 to 16, the gallery has dedicated a special sales exhibition: It displays some 15 vintage posters celebrating the beauty, speed and glamour of automobiles, Grand Prix racing, and past Geneva Motor Shows!
The History of the Automotive Industry
These posters are a small part of an extensive collection documenting different facets of the automotive industry from the early 1900's onwards.
So, in addition to showing advances in car design and technology, and the proliferation of automobile manufacturers, there are also posters devoted to products (tires, antifreeze, oil, and petrol cans have never been so stylishly interpreted), services (taxi, car rental, or engine tune-up, anyone?) and accessories (car radios, keys, and, uhm... Coca Cola!) that grew alongside the industry.
Of course, there is more to cars than nuts and bolts. Some posters take you trackside to hear the roar of the Formula 1 engines at Monaco or Le Mans.
Others let you revel in Hollywood versions of race car drivers' dangerous, heady lifestyles both at and away from the racetrack. They explore the mystique more than the practicalities of racing cars and motorcycles...
If you're a car or racing enthusiast all the better, but you needn't be to enjoy these art works! They are worth taking in for their own sake and for reasons beyond their subject matter.
Vintage Poster Art mirroring the Evolution of Printing Techniques
Vintage poster art also mirrors changing artistic styles - from Art Nouveau to Abstract, from muted tones to eye-popping color, from drawing to photography).
Also, they reflect the evolution of printing techniques from the early work and time intensive methods of stone lithography to less expensive, mass production techniques such as offset, heliography, and serigraphy. Finally, vintage poster art showcases cultural, social, and fashion trends - and rapid product development as automobiles became available to the masses rather than just a select, privileged few...
In many ways, vintage posters are historical documents. But first and foremost, they are gorgeous to look at - especially those posters printed using the painstaking and expensive process of stone lithography: Their definition, depth, and detail, as well as their vibrant colors achieved using natural pigments are as vivid today as the day they were printed.
If you cannot stop by to see these posters in person, look through the gallery's online catalogue. It's the closest thing to putting yourself in the driver's seat without having to buckle up!
(All images copyright Galerie Un-Deux-Trois)