'Underground Images': SVA's Iconic Subway Posters Now on View in The Netherlands
SVA's iconic subway posters continue their worldwide tour.
January 30, 2018
by Emma Drew
SVA's iconic subway posters continue their worldwide tour with two upcoming shows in the Netherlands, opening at the end of this month and early February. "Underground Images: School of Visual Arts Subway Posters, 1947 to the Present" will be presented concurrently at De Affiche Galerij in the heart of The Hague and at 3sec.gallery in Breda. Both venues, located in a central train station and a popular parking garage, respectively, are two of the most publicly trafficked sites the exhibition has had on its 5-year, 30-leg journey thus far.
"Underground Images" comprises a decades-spanning selection of promotional SVA posters, all designed by faculty members. Since the school’s early years, this work has served as advertisement for and showcase of the creative talent supported at SVA. Specifically created to be displayed on New York City subway platforms, the posters are now as inseparable from their urban environment as the school itself is. Featured designers have included Milton Glaser, Marshall Arisman, Paula Scher, and Stefan Sagmeister, among many others. "Underground Images" is curated by SVA Executive Vice President Anthony P. Rhodes, who has served as creative director for the posters since 2007, and organized by MFA Illustration as Visual Essay faculty member Mirko Ilic and SVA Galleries director Francis Di Tommaso.
Situated along a passenger walkway in one of The Hague’s central tram stations, De Affiche Galerij is a 100-meter-long glass case, specifically designed to display poster exhibitions. The gallery highlights an expansive collection of national and international posters that document free speech, protest, and historical-cultural movements through graphic design. "Underground Images" has previously been installed in less conventional venues—whether on a boat or in a repurposed pedestrian tunnel specially decorated to resemble a New York City subway station—but rarely in such a heavily-visited, public, everyday place, where thousands of commuters and city-dwellers are liable to pass by daily. The setting itself is fitting, as Di Tommaso points out, "What’s better for a train station than subway posters?" De Affiche Galerij's exhibition is on view now through March 6.
3sec.gallery in Breda is an exhibition space for visual culture at the entrance of Chassé Parking, a decidedly modern and appealing parking structure. The name 3sec.gallery refers to the literal time it takes to pass through the space as you drive in; patrons walk out to the city hall, movie theater, or casino above, giving them a bit more time with the works on display, stretched along the garage’s primary corridor. "The fact that is it positioned in a place most people (and mainly gallery holders) will consider a non-place was an extra challenge for me," writes curator and gallery founder Dennis Elbers on his website. The posters will be on view at 3sec.gallery through April 8; currently Elbers and SVA organizers are planning an accompanying talk on the exhibition, in Breda, for next month.
Both Dutch exhibitions present the entire collection of 62 subway posters, featuring designs by current and former faculty members. Arranged chronologically as they will be in both spaces, they trace the legacy of the College and of individual artists as well as elements of the history of design. "Underground Images" has traveled to more than 20 countries since 2013, including Brazil, China, South Africa, and many European nations. For more information about "Underground Images," click here.