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Posters from the Gewerbemuseum Basel’s Collection

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Creator Armin Hofmann
Printing year 1961
Sheet size (cm) 128×90.5
Printing technique Linocut
Printer Buchdruckerei VSK, Basel
Condition A
Asking price 1'800 CHF
Categories Design & Architecture

Isn’t that a butterfly? Or is it a bird? To draw attention to an exhibition of posters from the collection of the Gewerbemuseum Basel? And then by Armin Hofmann (1920 – 2020)? Who is generally associated more with the rational “Swiss style” than with emotion or poetry?

Even if the master from Basel – who also influenced generations of graphic designers in Switzerland and abroad as an educator – relied in his designs on radical reduction as well as clarity of form and color, he was not dogmatic (something that could rather be said of the representatives of the “Zurich School”, who followed in the tradition of the Constructivists or Concretists). And so some of Hofmann’s posters certainly allow for a symbolic interpretation, if they do not even require it.

In this case, however, the winged creature – assuming only that it is one! – is and remains a pictorial puzzle, even with knowledge of the text and thus the occasion, and even if one interprets the two blobs in the top right-hand corner as eyes. But the fact that questions remain unanswered need not be a bad thing in the case of a poster advertising a cultural event (whereas the client of a poster advertising a specific product shuns ambiguity like the devil shuns holy water). After all, the poster was sure to attract attention – by far the most important currency in advertising – simply by limiting itself to the signal color red, which undoubtedly stood out in the greyish cityscape.

Either way, we are not aware of a second copy having ever appeared on the market – probably because the print run was very small, as the posters were only intended for local display (the address of the Basler Gewerbemuseum is not even listed). So: A scarce original poster by Armin Hofmann at its best.