The Art of a New York Film Festival Poster

The Art of a New York Film Festival Poster


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Richard Serra; Photo by Cristiano Mascaro, via NYFF

Since its beginnings, the New York Film Festival has showcased the work of many of the most acclaimed filmmakers. But the annual event — the 55th edition runs through Oct. 15 — has also used some of the most revered visual artists and photographers for its posters. They make up a roll call of contemporary art stars: Warhol, Lichtenstein, David Hockney, Cindy Sherman and many more. This year, the festival chose a sculptor for the task, Richard Serra. Here is a closer look at that poster and other standouts over the years.

Richard Serra (2017)

For his contribution, the artist, primarily known for his giant outdoor sculptures of steel or stone, focused on his 80-foot work displayed in a park at the Museum of Islamic Art in Qatar. It is photographed from inside to make the sculpture look like a camera’s aperture. “It’s one of my favorite posters in the festival’s history,” said Kent Jones, the festival director. “On one hand, it’s photography and cinema. On the other hand, it’s the embodiment of his art in one image. This is what it’s all about.”

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Roy Lichtenstein/LCPA, via NYFF

Roy Lichtenstein (1966)

In the early years of the festival, a Lincoln Center benefactor and art collector, Vera List, created the Lincoln Center/List Art Poster and Print Program, which commissioned artists to make posters for the event. The program brought in the pop artist Larry Rivers the first year of the festival, then in 1966 commissioned another pop-art luminary, Roy Lichtenstein. During this decade, he was creating some of his most talked-about work. His poster design reads like an art deco reflection of Lincoln Center cachet. It came at a time when Lichtenstein switched from paintings based primarily on comic books to works that still used his characteristic Ben-Day dots but focused more on geometric shapes and other inspirations from architecture.

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David Hockney, via Petersburg Press and NYFF

David Hockney (1981)

Now 80 and still very much an active part of the art scene, David Hockney was a celebrated painter for two decades before he provided this poster. It reproduces his 1970 crayon drawing “Window, Grand Hotel, Vittel,” and in the context of the festival, it feels like a contemplative moment from French cinema. Fittingly, the lineup that year included the contemplative French films “Le Pont du Nord” from Jacques Rivette, and “Beau-Père” from Bertrand Blier.

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Sol Lewitt, via NYFF

Sol LeWitt (1987)

That year the festival poster went in a conceptual direction. Sol LeWitt took simple black-and-white lines and configured them in dizzying ways. The close positioning of the lines, and their varied directions inside boxes suggest an image in motion — a motion picture if you will. New Yorkers may be familiar with LeWitt’s work from their commute. The Columbus Circle subway station, near Lincoln Center, is home to one of the artist’s final commissions, “Whirls and Twirls (MTA).”

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Gregory Crewdson, via NYFF

Gregory Crewdson (2009)

Photographers have often been asked to create posters for the festival. Richard Avedon and Diane Arbus, for example, each contributed posters. And Gregory Crewdson, who uses movies to inform his photography, was a logical choice. His still photographs capture a moment in a cinematic way through lighting, production design and character. In 2009, two different posters were designed, one a still, seen in his exhibition “Beneath the Roses,” of a girl on a swing in the rain. A second poster showed the making of the photograph, a behind-the-scenes view that included the lights, the rain machine and the crew. “This idea of how pictures are produced and then the beautiful fiction of a final image seemed appropriate for the festival,” Mr. Crewdson said in an interview.



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