2006 in Zuerich, at Siegfried Odermatt's 80. birthday party
1925.02.26 Malters LU (CH) - 2014.10.05 Zuerich (CH)
was the curator of the poster collection at the Museum fuer Gestaltung in Zuerich, Switzerland, from 1972 until his retirement in 1990. After an apprenticeship as a book binder, he held managing positions in a large printing company before accepting responsability for one of the largest poster collections in the world, now estimated at several hundred thousand copies, and going back to 1875.
Being a down to earth and practical man, he brought order to the collection which had been neglected in the previous years. He built a modular shelf system and a photo studio, and also made an index card inventory that allowed quick access to the objects according to designers name and by poster subject. In addition, he was a meticulous documentalist, collecting and sorting every bit of information about posters and their designers that he could find. What sounds self evident today was actually a pioneering and enormous task in the pre-computer age considering the size of the collection. He published many books, and organized countless exhibitions, most with catalogues. He had a huge worlwide network with many institutions and close personal relations with many poster designers. His work quickly brought him international recognition, and for a long time he was considered the world authority in the field. He remained active after his retirement. His last poster exhibition, which he organized at age 87, was shown at the nursing home where he visited his ailing wife Olga daily for seven years before her death.
I got to know him in the 1980's when I started working on the Poster Bibliography. I had his full support right from the start when I visited the collection for the first time, and spent many days in his personal library studying poster books and catalogues. I admired his attitude that a poster museum should not only be a storage space for interesting prints, but a forum and documentation center for designers, printers, archives, collectors, posting companies, advertisers, the public, educators and students, art historians, the press, restauration and conservation specialists, other museums, auction houses, tourism offices and so on. I still wonder how Karl managed to come so close to our common dream.
Posterpage, and my passion for posters, has many roots. Karl Wobmann's friendship and encouragement is one of the first and strongest.