Rene Wanner's Poster Page


Dutch Posters 1960-1996
A selection by Anthon Beeke

BIS Publishers, Nieuwe Spiegelstraat 36, NL - 1001 NG Amsterdam
tel 020-620 5171, fax 020-627 9251, email
216 pages, 370 colour reproductions, 31 x 26 cm; ISBN 90-72007-20-4; US$ 49.00
in dutch and english

Contemporary dutch graphic design is still an insider tip. I remember my surprise when out of the blue a journal on posters, Affiche, was published in Holland in 1992, which during the next four years of its existence gave us a glimpse on what is happening today in the Netherlands. Some of these posters where so wild and provocative that I could hardly believe that they had ever been show in public. Also dutch poster designers contribute far less to the international poster biennales than their japanese or polish colleagues, for example.

The book by Anthon Beeke therefore fills a gap and I am sure it will bring on greater recognition to a fascinating development that so far has escaped international attention, maybe with the exception of some art schools that are in touch with dutch graphic designers. It concentrates on cultural posters.

The introduction was written by Paul Hefting, art historian and co-author of the book Graphic design in the Netherlands, the 20th century , which also treated posters but naturally in far less detail than was possible here. The main author, Anthon Beeke, is one of the leading dutch graphic designers, noted enfant terrible at age 56, former member of the agency Total Design, and also the designer of his book, together with Ko Sliggers. There is fortunately nothing terrible at all with the graphic design of Dutch Posters 1960-1996. It is well organised, well printed, solidly bound, has easy to read typography, and figure captions they belong. The difficult problem of arranging bilingual text (dutch and english) is solved in such an exemplary way that the reader is hardly aware of it. There is an appendix with biographies of the 120 designers that are represented in the book, but some may miss a list of publications for further reading, or a list of names so they can be located in the text.

Beeke, who has been an active contributor to the history of dutch posters from the late sixties onwards, gives a highly readable personal account of it. He covers topics such as printing techniques, clients, the reaction of the public, the counterculture, design collectives, computers and gives background to the work of his teachers and designer friends. He also spells out explicitly six criteria used to select the posters in this book and many young designers who's work I have never seen published until now have passed his test. A puzzling omission however is Gielijn Escher.

Functionalism in Rotterdam
exhibition poster
1983, Wim Crouwel, Total Design

Artifact, Holland Festival
theater poster
1987, Studio Dumbar

Kunstrai Art Fair
exhibition poster
1997, Anthon Beeke
The era covered in the book starts quietly in the early sixties with the harmonious composition, typography and colour typical for Swiss Style and Neue Sachlichkeit. These characteristics reached full maturity in the posters of Wim Crouwel, who's last work shown dates from 1988. Things began moving however in the seventies already, in the wake of the social revolution that swept the world in 1968. By 1980, all taboos, design rules and conventions had been broken, and the Netherlands was apparently an ideal place for such experimentation, for 'delirium design', as Beeke calls it. While the dutch poster revolution is still in full bloom, a period of reflection is on the horizon, and the last few pictures show us what may be ahead.

The book is a worthy sequel to the well known A history of the dutch poster 1890-1960 by Dooijes and Brattinga, it is instructive to read and exciting to look at.

home   other reviews  page created on April 19, 1998 / this section is part of Rene Wanner's Poster Page /