Graphic Intervention: 25 Years of International AIDS Awareness Posters 1985-2010

Wolfsonian Museum. From May 11 through September 9, 2012.

altThe Wolfsonian-Florida International University is the recipient of a donation from Henry S. Hacker of more than thirty-six hundred AIDS-themed posters from over eighty countries, produced between 1985 and 2010. To mark this major gift, The Wolfsonian presents the exhibition Graphic Intervention: 25 Years of International AIDS Awareness Posters 1985– 2010 beginning on May 11, 2012. Graphic Intervention explores the role the poster has played in global efforts to prevent HIV/AIDS and promote awareness and safe sex education.

The poster has played a special role in conveying information about the HIV/AIDS virus. The posters in the collection are extremely diverse – different aims, messages, visual metaphors, and strategies have strongly influenced the content and design of the posters. Originating from countries as varied as Papua New Guinea, India, China, Denmark, and the United States, the posters provide a fascinating overview of the wide-ranging visual and messaging strategies employed in response to HIV/AIDS.

In many countries, the poster as a communicative tool was uncommon prior to the disease, while in other parts of the world the poster’s heyday was long past. And yet, in part because the poster is inexpensive and easy to produce locally, the poster became a core vehicle for conveying information about the disease in many different countries throughout the world.

These posters are a significant addition to The Wolfsonian’s growing holdings on health and hygiene. The museum has placed an emphasis in recent years on increasing its collection in this area, and has chosen to extend the time frame for these materials beyond the museum’s period in order to continually explore the ways in which design reflects and shapes human experience with issues that are of core concern to society, such as the HIV/AIDS epidemic, the most significant global health crisis in recent history.

“I think this is an amazing collection that over the years will be a very special research tool,” notes Hacker. The collection was assembled with great care during the course of several years. Hacker purchased the posters from James Lapides of the International Poster Gallery in Boston, who had acquired a large portion of the collection in 1999 from a European collector and then worked with collaborators for more than a decade to augment it.

“This collection not only demonstrates the role design plays – and in this case poster design – in public health campaigns, but it also connects to the history of our community, nation, times, as well as research interests at our university,” notes Wolfsonian director Cathy Leff. “It is a staggering accomplishment to have assembled more than three thousand posters from over eighty countries. We are grateful for Jim’s commitment to this collection and humbled by this incredible gift from Henry Hacker.”

Hacker is a newly appointed Wolfsonian Advisory Board member whose career has included directing the design, marketing, and management functions of brands and licensees as both a private-practice business lawyer and a corporate executive. He earned a B.A. from Yale University, a J.D. from Cornell University, and is currently a candidate for a master’s degree in liberal arts in museum studies at Harvard Extension School.

Graphic Intervention showcases over one hundred and fifty posters from forty-four countries, presenting a comprehensive overview of the diverse visual strategies employed by government agencies, community activists, grassroots organizations, and motivated citizens to educate the local population in response to HIV/AIDS. Almost all of the posters included in Graphic Intervention are part of the donation to The Wolfsonian – some of the posters that are not in the collection are being donated to the museum. The exhibition, which opens on May 11, 2012, is organized by the Massachusetts College of Art and Design.

“In Graphic Intervention we see a wide spectrum of visual and communication strategies employed across cultures but utilizing the same format – the poster – and sharing the objective of increasing AIDS education, awareness, and prevention,” notes Marianne Lamonaca, The Wolfsonian’s associate director for curatorial affairs and education. “The exhibition continues our ongoing exploration of themes of public health/hygiene as well as our overarching interest in ways in which design communicates messages to and about society.”

Graphic Intervention was curated by Elizabeth Resnick, professor and chair of graphic design at Mass Art, and Javier Cortés, partner and creative director at Korn Design, Boston, in collaboration with James Lapides of the International Poster Gallery in Boston. There is an exhibition website, The exhibition is accompanied by a full-color publication of the same title, with essays by Steven Heller, James Lapides, and Suzi Peel and Chaz Maviyane-Davies, published by the Massachusetts College of Art and Design.

Wolfsonian Museum – FIU
1001 Washington Avenue
Miami Beach, FL 33139

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