Press RoomPress ReleasesHigh Museum of Art to Present Early-20th-Century Experimental Poster Design from Merrill C. Berman Collection

High Museum of Art to Present Early-20th-Century Experimental Poster Design from Merrill C. Berman Collection

September 29, 2021

ATLANTA, Sept. 29, 2021  This winter, the High Museum of Art will present “Disrupting Design: Modern Posters, 1900-1940” (Dec. 10, 2021-April 24, 2022), an exhibition surveying the origins of experimental poster design through work from Merrill C. Berman’s collection, which focuses on radical art of the 20th century. Featured in the exhibition are nearly 50 early-20th-century posters that represent a complex history of modernism, as avant-garde artists actively produced fine and applied art for both commercial and political purposes.

“These fascinating works, from a highly significant collection, underscore an important connection between art and societal change,” said Rand Suffolk, the High’s Nancy and Holcombe T. Green, Jr., director. “This exhibition also provides a glimpse at the impact graphic design has, not only as an art form, but also on day-to-day decision-making and the circulation of information on a large scale.”

Though not precious or unique, the poster is the ultimate design object used to disseminate ideas and images that reflect time and place. As an object of design history, the poster can comment on social or cultural shifts, but it is probably best known for its most prominent role — selling commercial products. Works included in the exhibition feature a wide range of subjects, from advertisements for consumer goods, such as Lucian Bernhard’s work for Stiller shoes, to Lester Beall’s posters that communicate the power of electrification to rural audiences in the United States. Other examples include the poster as a vehicle for political propaganda, such as agitprop from Soviet Russia, and the emergence of New Typography as a strategy to present text and image in a persuasive way to shape modern society. 

These poster designers from the early 1900s through the 1940s revolutionized typography and the graphic image, creating experimental designs that changed artistic perspectives as well as the hearts and minds of people. Their works demonstrate the origins of modern graphic design, as practiced in Europe, and how they relate to and were influenced by avant-garde art movements such as constructivism, futurism and dada.

“This exhibition will give our audiences the opportunity to see the origins of the modern poster in Europe through a diverse group of iconic works generously lent by Berman,” added Monica Obniski, the High’s curator of decorative arts and design. “As we know from our current social media landscape, the need to create an eye-catching graphic, and the ways that type and image can communicate various messages, whether political, social or commercial, is a long-standing practice that has its foundations in these posters.”

“Disrupting Design: Modern Posters, 1900-1940” will be presented on the Lower Level of the High’s Wieland Pavilion. 

Exhibition Organization and Support
Disrupting Design: Modern Posters, 1900-1940 is organized by the High Museum of Art, Atlanta. The exhibition is made possible by Premier Exhibition Series Sponsor Delta Air Lines, Inc.; Premier Exhibition Series Supporters Sarah and Jim Kennedy, Louise Sams and Jerome GrilhotDr. Joan H. Weens Estate, and wish foundation; Benefactor Exhibition Series Supporters Anne Cox Chambers Foundation and Robin and Hilton Howell; Ambassador Exhibition Series Supporters The Antinori Foundation, Corporate Environments, and Elizabeth and Chris Willett; and Contributing Exhibition Series Supporters Farideh and Al Azadi, Sandra and Dan Baldwin, Lucinda W. Bunnen, Marcia and John Donnell, Helen C. Griffith, Mrs. Fay S. Howell/The Howell Fund, Mr. and Mrs. Baxter Jones, The Arthur R. and Ruth D. Lautz Charitable Foundation, Joel Knox and Joan MarmoDr. Joe B. Massey, Margot and Danny McCaul, The Ron and Lisa Brill Family Charitable Trust, Wade Rakes and Nicholas Miller, The Fred and Rita Richman Fund, In Memory of Elizabeth B. Stephens, USI Insurance Services, and Mrs. Harriet H. Warren. Generous support is also provided by the Alfred and Adele Davis Exhibition Endowment Fund, Anne Cox Chambers Exhibition Fund, Barbara Stewart Exhibition Fund, Dorothy Smith Hopkins Exhibition Endowment Fund, Eleanor McDonald Storza Exhibition Endowment Fund, The Fay and Barrett Howell Exhibition Fund, Forward Arts Foundation Exhibition Endowment Fund, Helen S. Lanier Endowment Fund, Isobel Anne Fraser–Nancy Fraser Parker Exhibition Endowment Fund, John H. and Wilhelmina D. Harland Exhibition Endowment Fund, Katherine Murphy Riley Special Exhibition Endowment Fund, Margaretta Taylor Exhibition Fund, and the RJR Nabisco Exhibition Endowment Fund. 

About the High Museum of Art
Located in the heart of Atlanta, the High Museum of Art connects with audiences from across the Southeast and around the world through its distinguished collection, dynamic schedule of special exhibitions and engaging community-focused programs. Housed within facilities designed by Pritzker Prize-winning architects Richard Meier and Renzo Piano, the High features a collection of more than 18,000 works of art, including an extensive anthology of 19th- and 20th-century American fine and decorative arts; major holdings of photography and folk and self-taught work, especially that of artists from the American South; burgeoning collections of modern and contemporary art, including paintings, sculpture, new media and design; a growing collection of African art, with work dating from prehistory through the present; and significant holdings of European paintings and works on paper. The High is dedicated to reflecting the diversity of its communities and offering a variety of exhibitions and educational programs that engage visitors with the world of art, the lives of artists and the creative process. For more information about the High, visit  

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Media contact:
Marci Tate Davis
High Museum of Art 
Manager of Public Relations