NYFF: Behind the Posters


Cindy Sherman's poster for the 50th New York Film Festival.

It may come as a suprise, but the New York Film Festival has been consistently engaged not only with the kind of art that is projected on the screen, but the kind that is hung on the wall as well. With its annual poster, NYFF has proven to be a platform not just for filmmakers, but for painters and photographers too. Poster art has been commissioned from the likes of influential artists like Andy Warhol, Richard Avedon and Robert Rauschenberg, resulting in a wonderful case study of artistic cross-hybridization.

The driving force behind this unity was Vera List. When Lincoln Center was still in its early stages, and John D Rockefeller III was assembling a group of benefactors to support its existence, List assumed an enthusiastic and hands-on role in its development. List had grown up surrounded by the arts and, along with her husband Albert, juggled the vocations of art collecting and philanthropy. One of her enduring contributions to Lincoln Center was shaping the way that its various programs and organizations would advertise their major events. Inspired by what she had seen in recent trips to Paris, she met with Rockefeller III and suggesteed the idea that posters did not have to be presented as a basic flat form of advertising, but original and inventive creations that went above mere commercialism. The poster, List argued, could be a work of art in itself.

List proved incredibly persuasive, facilitating the creation of the Lincoln Center/List Art Poster and Print Program. She and Delmar Hendricks, who was appointed the first director of the program, would attend various gallery exhibitions together to scout artists to commission, gauging how dynamic and arresting their work would potentially be to a passerby.


Four early New York Film Festival posters: Larry Rivers (63), Saul Bass (64), Roy Lichtenstein (66), Andy Warhol (67).

When it comes to the New York Film Festival, they managed to cultivate an incredible array of artists to create its annual poster, uncannily tapping into the artistic zeitgeist. The poster for the first New York Film Festival was created by Larry Rivers, considered by many to be the main proponent of Pop Art. Solidifying its allignment with the Pop Art movement, Hendricks and List would go on to recuit Roy Lichtenstein and Andy Warhol to create the posters for the fourth and fifth New York Film Festivals, respectively. More recent contributors include Martin Scorsese, whose story boards for a scene from Raging Bull made up the poster for the 36th NYFF, as well as actor Jeff Bridges, whose photo of a film set amidst a backdrop of Manhattan skyscrapers was used for the 42nd NYFF poster.

The poster for the golden anniversary of the New York Film Festival was created by Cindy Sherman. Considered one of the most important figures in contemporary art, Sherman is known for her stylized portaits that feature herself in an endless assortment of characters and caricatures, fearlessly challenging notions of identity and beauty. Her work was the subject of an extensive exhibition at New York's Museum of Modern Art this past spring that will be making its way through San Francisco, Minneapolis and Dallas through Summer 2013.

You can learn more about Cindy Sherman and purchase your own copy of her poster for the 50th New York Film Festival here. Also check out our gallery of past NYFF posters here.

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