Czech Poster Gallery is a vast online collection of original vintage posters produced in Czechoslovakia, Poland, Yugoslavia, and beyond.
In the former Eastern Bloc, posters were both an important marketing tool (which, in the absence of trailers, provided the film with almost all of its publicity). But it was also creative field that was relatively free from censorship. This, along with isolation from the Western market, made the Eastern European cinema posters unique, elevating a seemingly niche area of design into a pioneering artform.
“I have been collecting movie posters since the 80s,” says Lukas Tvarda, the founder of Czech Poster Gallery. Now in his 40s, Tvarda remembers asking his local cinema employees for the posters as a child. Back then, it was not unusual for theatres to stock a number of posters for each film: sometimes, the cinema cashier would put a pile of them on her chair in order to sit a little higher. Decades later, it has become clear that she was quite literally sitting on a treasure trove.
Some of Tvarda’s most valuable finds were bought at London’s flea markets. He remembers stumbling upon arguably Czechoslovakia’s most famous film poster, created by Olga Poláčková-Vyleťalová for Robert Bresson’s 1969 masterpiece Une Femme Douce, at the Whitechapel market. “It was just stashed under some old dusty posters, and I truly felt like I found a treasure!”
Yet while consumers in the 90s and 00s were enamoured with novelty, usually preferring modern or recently-produced posters, vintage Eastern Bloc posters are now back in fashion — both in the Czech Republic, and across Europe. “The price of most wanted posters increased about 500 per cent only in the last two years,” says Tvarda. He says that sourcing posters for his collection is becoming more and more difficult: as people are realising how much these works can cost, they are less willing to part with them.
Czech Poster Gallery also puts part of their profits towards the restoration of damaged posters, which can be quite costly. Reflecting on the changing market, Tvarda says: “We are also releasing fewer and fewer posters for sale, and we want to focus more on their restoration and digitalisation in the future.”