Newbury Street gallery impresses

The International Poster Gallery — located across the street from Zara and French Connection on Newbury Street — provides visitors with breathtaking visuals and food for thought. The gallery was founded nearly 20 years ago by Jim Lapides, a businessman whose search for decorations for his home and office turned him into a collector of rare works of art — vintage posters.

The exhibition “Posters a la Carte” showcases nearly 50 original vintage Food & Drink posters, ranging from the Belle ?poque (Europe’s “Beautiful Era,” which lasted from 1871 to 1914) to the 1960s. The show features posters produced by the food and beverage industry, including preeminent brands such as Absinthe, Coca-Cola and Perrier, as well as other companies marketing products such as wine, champagne, cheese, foie gras and Jello.

Although many may not consider commercial posters to be art, “Posters a la Carte” refutes this notion. The gallery chronicles how advertisers have harnessed the universal power of art to sell their products throughout several distinct historical eras, including the Art Deco period of the 1930s and World War II. According to their website, the show features posters mostly from European nations like France, Germany and Switzerland, which use “humor, sex, caricature, fantasy, charm and eye popping tromp l’oeil affects” to mesmerize and capture the attention of consumers.

One of the first pieces in the exhibit is a classic poster for the French wine tonic Vin Mariani (1894), by Jules Cheret. The central figure of the poster, a beautiful “Cherette” dressed in a revealing bright yellow dress, gracefully rushes toward a prospective customer — ready to elegantly pour a drink into the awaiting and unseen glass. This highlights the playfulness, sexuality and gaiety of the Belle ?poque, which is reinforced by the text that reads “Popular French Tonic Wine: Fortifies and Refreshes Body & Brain / Restores Health and Vitality.”

The headliner of the exhibition is a Coca Cola Poster (artist unknown, 1950). The poster features a giant, frosty, hyper-realistic Coke bottle, brightly emerging from the grip of a snowy drift. A large red logo located in the bottom right corner reminds consumers that this is, of course, a Coke product, and an optical illusion is created by a faux frame surrounding the image. Like many Swiss posters, this one communicates virtually without words — something that is critical in a country like Switzerland with four national languages.

The International Poster Gallery’s largest drawback is its lack of wall space. Its prime, yet small location on Newbury Street makes it difficult for the gallery to display its entire collection — most posters are neatly piled on tables or in drawers, making it difficult for visitors to see many of the gallery’s treasures.

Despite this, the “Posters a la Carte” exhibit — funny, colorful and thought provoking — is most definitely worth a visit. Gallery staff will be more than happy to answer any questions visitors may have about “Posters a la Carte,” the history of the lithograph poster or any of the other works. The gallery’s permanent collection provides those hoping to find beautiful works of art for their own walls with many options available for purchase.

“Posters a la Carte” will run through Dec. 1. Gallery hours are Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Sunday from 12 p.m. to 6 p.m. The gallery is located at 205 Newbury St., Boston. Call (617)-375-0076 or visit www.internationalposter.com to learn more about the exhibit, the gallery and the history of poster making.


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