CYRK: Vintage Polish Circus Posters

Best of Architectural Digest Home Design Show

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CYRK...Polish circus/art posters, with their most recognizable subjects and unmatched popularity, are the quintessential posters of the golden age of the Polish School of Posters -1945 (the end of World War II) through 1989 (the fall of Communism). During this time, the Polish Government financially supported and encouraged poster art. Posters became the primary art form of the nation. The art of Polish posters attained international fame, becoming established as the best in contemporary/vintage poster art.

My personal favorite find at the Home Show this year was a collection of vintage circus posters created during Poland's communist era. The bold, colorful, seemingly-fun designs incorporate subversive themes if you take a closer look.

During the communist years between 1945 and 1989, Poland didn't produce many goods, so the government decided to activate the culture and creativity within its people as a substitute for economic capital. They hired artists to make beautiful posters for the circus to advertise when the show was coming. There's a common Y shape hidden within many of the pieces, a symbol of the resistance movement in which many artists participated. Because the work itself had to be approved by the Polish government before production, these artists skillfully hid meaning in shapes, analogies, and patterns.

As decorative items, they are reasonably-priced original prints that feature gorgeous hand-lettering and vibrant inks. Pieces with scribbled-on edits are even more fascinating. You can find a large collection of these historical CYRK designs at Contemporary Posters.