This exhibition illustrates how products were highlighted and promoted in historical posters. It prompts us to ponder the term ‘luxury’ in general, but also its varied interpretations in different eras and cultural spaces.
In a brief interview, Nico Lazúla Baur, archivist of the Museum für Gestaltung’s poster collection, talks about how the concept of Genussmittel (luxury products) has developed and highlights the history of coffee consumption. As the exhibition shows, Maja Allenbach’s posters were particularly pioneering.
You can find the interview here
When does the term Genussmittel (luxury products) arise?
The definition of products as luxury goods, or as intoxicating or addictive, is determined by cultural, ideological and religious influences and differs according to socio-cultural context and historical epoch. Tobacco, for instance, has been defined as an addictive substance in Europe only since the 1950s; for centuries, it was seen as a luxury, even therapeutic product. Another example: until recently, beer enjoyed a significant status alongside bread as ‘liquid bread’.
When did people start drinking coffee in Europe?
Pure ground coffee became an everyday product in Europe only after the ‘economic miracle’ of the 1950s. Previously, it was an expensive, exotic luxury and its consumption was seen as inappropriate in a rural context. Until the second world war, more than half of coffee consumed was in the form of coffee substitute products.
The massive expansion of the coffee substitute industry was driven by import difficulties, the supposed detrimental effects of genuine coffee, the high price of arabica coffee, and the growing number of workers and their rapidly changing living conditions. Until the end of the 19th century, potatoes, spirits and coffee (or coffee substitutes) were the classic trilogy of the meagre but widespread proletarian diet, and helped to overcome long working hours. To promote public health, ‘healthy coffee’ made of malt, rye or figs was introduced.
Which of the posters in the exhibition would you say is particularly pioneering?
The posters by Maja Allenbach deserve special attention. Unfortunately, she is largely unknown today, but she was an early pioneer of the photo poster in Switzerland. In bringing together photography and typography, Allenbach ushered in a new aesthetic in consumer posters. Her avant-garde design sensibility is very much evident in her advertising posters for Astra fat and Stalden cream.
Allenbach attracted attention with her surreal 1935 poster for Astra fat and oils. It communicates a clear message: by using Astra fat, the floating baby becomes a young man striding confidently into life. But it also reflects the traditional roles of the time – it is clearly meant to appeal to mothers.
We are lucky that Allenbach’s original design, ‘Astra hilft sparen’, which appears not to have been used, entered the collection last year.
Plakatsammlung Museum für Gestaltung Zürich
Die Plakatsammlung des Museum für Gestaltung Zürich, gehört weltweit zu den umfangreichsten und bedeutendsten Archiven dieser Art. Rund 350'000 Objekte, davon etwa 120'000 inventarisiert, dokumentieren die schweizerische und internationale Geschichte des Plakats von ihren Anfängen Mitte des 19. Jahrhunderts bis in die Gegenwart. Die Sammlung umfasst politische, kulturelle und kommerzielle Plakate. Ihre Vielfalt in historischer, thematischer und geografischer Hinsicht ermöglicht sowohl eine Tour d’Horizon der Plakatkunst als auch den Blick in ein visuelles Archiv der Alltagswelt. Ein Teil der Sammelobjekte ist bereits über einen Online-Katalog recherchierbar: www.emuseum.ch Dieser wird kontinuierlich erweitert.
Die Bilder dieser Online-Ausstellung sind Teil des digitalen Katalogs der Plakatsammlung des Museum für Gestaltung Zürich und dienen ausschliesslich der Illustration. Jede Verwendung zugunsten Dritter – Veröffentlichung der Bilder oder sonstige kommerzielle Nutzung – ist ohne Erlaubnis der Rechteinhaber nicht zulässig. Informationen zur Bestellung von Bildvorlagen: firstname.lastname@example.org