The Manhattan Art and Antiques Center is proud to present an exclusive exhibition of Hemingway African Gallery‘s collection of hand-painted movie posters from Ghana, on view until March 31, 2014. As Brian Gaisford, owner of Hemingway Gallery states, “While the Hollywood movie industry is famous for spending literal fortunes on their film fare and its subsequent promotion, not everyone has the means to promote movies with such gross excess: enter the lost art of the Ghana movie poster.”
During the videocassette boom in Ghana in the 1980s, small-scale mobile theaters began to flourish around the sub-Saharan country, providing entertainment as they passed through villages. The showings often took place in social clubs, houses, or outside in the warm night. The theaters sometimes only consisted of chairs, a generator, a VCR and a television. Artists were hired to create large, colorful posters and given full creative license to attract the viewing public.
To attract as many bodies as possible, the artists often added “elements that weren’t in the actual films, or without even having seen the movies.” The result was a body of highly unique and imaginative one-off pieces. The posters were created on large canvases, often on flour sacks. Artists used oil paints for flexibility and rolled up the pieces for easy transport to the next show. Bursting with energy and a unique exuberance, the pieces began to garner Western attention.
Today, with much easier access to VHS, DVD, and the internet, the mobile cinema has largely died out in the country, and with it, the quality of the posters that advertised the events. The few outfits that continue the practice do so with much less interesting photocopied images announcing the show. Hence, Hemingway African Gallery’s exhibition represents a fascinating look at a cultural relic of the recent past.
According to The Wall Street Journal, collectors in the avid market that has sprung around the movie posters pay “$1,800 to $2,500—sometimes up to $15,000—for a vintage poster,” according to Glen Joffe, owner of Primitive Inc. gallery in Chicago. Three exhibitions of Ghanaian posters are planned for this year in galleries around the country. The Manhattan Art & Antiques Center’s show is the exclusive current show in New York. Contact Hemingway African Gallery here.